By: Abby Tribble
Assistant Director, Residence Life
State Fair Community College
Dr. Joanna Anderson, President of State Fair Community College has a combined total of 26 years of community college experience. In her most recent role, Anderson served as the Vice President for Student Services at Casper College located in Casper, Wyoming. This article is a summary of an interview conducted with Dr. Joanna Anderson concerning the Millennial generation, higher education’s newest students. The interview is focused on challenges of Millennial college students and trending practices in student affairs to meet the needs of Millennial college students and their parents.
AA, North Central Missouri College – Trenton, Missouri (1976)
BS, University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri (1978)
MsEd, William Woods University – Fulton, Missouri (1998)
Ed.D, University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri (2010)
26 years of community college experience
2007-2013, Vice President for Student Services at Casper College – Casper, Wyoming
1986-2007, North Central Missouri College – Trenton, Missouri
Dean of Student Services
Director, Public Relations
1) What made you interested in working in higher education?
“I was originally interested in teaching some agriculture or English courses while working at radio station. At this time I had signed a contract to teach journalism and English at a local high school. While working an event for the radio station at a fair, I met the president of North Central Missouri College; he recognized me for my public relations and interviewing skills. There was a public relations job open at this time and I decided to apply. After working in PR, I decided to transition into admissions to market institution to recruit students.”
2) What is your philosophy of student success? Has this changed overtime while working in higher education?
“My family background shows strong value of education. I always knew I was going to college and had support from my family to continue my education. It was never an option to not be successful – I knew I could and I would. A lot of students today do not have strong support network. Not everyone learns the same way. We have to find ways to help students that don’t learn best in the traditional ‘high school’ format.”
3) As a formal director in admissions, what kinds of trends do you see in recruitment for Millennial college students compared to then and now?
“Then – mail pieces/pamphlets
Now – Websites/social media
Personal relationships are still really important, just as important today as they were in the past. But traditional printed pieces do not work as well as they used to. Students also have more options today than they used to.”
4) According to the text, “Technology is the vehicle for bringing social life into the classroom and is the means of replacing social life at the college”
2012, p. 53).
Do you agree with this statement about the social setting for Millennial
“Yes and no – Most students still have personal social network, if they do not they can be lost in the shuffle. Joining teams, clubs or organizations help traditional college students connect with their peers and form cliques. College used to be a time to form social relationships. It is more difficult now because they utilize technology much more – and sometimes do not communicate effectively.”
The following information reflects student involvement as of 2009. These percentages reflect student involvement per each month during the academic year.
Percentage of students/month
Attend on-campus social and/or community events
Attend collegiate athletic events
Attend meetings of student-sponsored clubs
It is cited that a majority of students who participate in activities and attend campus events are traditionally aged, full-time students attending four year-colleges and working half-time or less. As a community college, SFCC had 873 first-time full-time freshmen. This was approximately 17% of SFCC’s total student headcount
(State Fair Community College, 2013). SFCC has a large
population of non-traditional, part-time students but shows a great turnout in
activities and involvement.
5) As community colleges see a lot of turnover from year-to-year, what does this data suggest for our new demographic of students?
“We probably do better than the larger universities because we are small enough where students encourage other students to participate. Students with children often have connections in the community and already feel established. We have a good turnout for our institution.”
6) Most higher education professionals have studied Chickering’s Seven Vectors of Identity Development. Do you believe this model is changing for Millennial college students’ development? How so?
- Developing competence
- Managing emotions
- Moving through autonomy toward interdependence
- Developing mature interpersonal relationships
- Establishing identity
- Developing purpose
- Developing integrity
(Evans, 2009, pp. 67-69)
“The steps may not be taken in the same order that they used to be. In Millennials, sometimes these stages are delayed due to being overprotected. What students used to go through at an earlier age is happening at a later age now.”
7) As a professional in higher education for nearly 27 years, what academic trends do you see with students concerning their expectations of college-level work that have evolved during this time?
“On one hand college students are lazier than they used to be. Compared to then, students now can use word processing and do quick search for information – the information is much more accessible than it used to be. While it has made us more efficient, it can also make students lazy by just copying and pasting information. When I was a college student, I used notecards to write out facts and cite my sources. My uncle’s dissertation was typed on a typewriter. Both of these things are easily entered in the computer today and can be edited much faster.
With trends in technology, this generation seems to be very instant. Students have not had to wait for things they want. Generation instant gratification. Another potential fault I see is a failure to plan. We sometimes fail to plan. Planning is a skill we are losing. This means planning for the near future, but also considering future generations to come.”
8) According to the text, 80 percent of senior student affairs officers surveyed said their campuses were experiencing increased demand for enhanced technology by students
(Levine, 2012, p. 47). Do you see similar
patterns with enrollment and a higher demand for technology at SFCC?
“We have kept up well, but it definitely will not slow down. It changes so quickly, keeping up with technology is a costly thing all colleges have to deal with.”
9) As a professional in housing, I am often asking students about things they want to do for fun. The common answers I get are students jokingly saying, “Can we get some kegs in here?” Students seem to have an expectation of coming to college to find non-stop parties. How can we adjust this expectation and teach students that they can have fun without underage drinking and/or drug use?
“Sometimes students go to college for the wrong reasons and not really understanding, fully, why they are there. It is part of our job to help students understand what getting a college education is all about – NSO, Student success classes, reflection of goals, etc. We need to make it intentional to help our students learn to be responsible. Instead of saying “don’t do this”, perhaps a more realistic approach is “This is how to stay safe” when it comes to serious issues like drinking and driving.”
10) In the textbook for American College Student (Generation on a Tightrope) it is emphasized that a generation’s characteristics are defined by moments that happened during that particular generation’s development. For example, for Millennial students it is emphasized that events on September 11, school shootings, and technology affected our mindset [YES, I am a Millennial, too!] – Do you agree with this pattern of beliefs?
“When I was a student, I did not know anyone who had been raped or assaulted. Now, everyone knows at least someone that has faced this issue. This current generation has been exposed to domestic violence or often knows someone who has been affected by it.
My parents, who come from a different generation, were affected by the Great depression. With this depression, they were raised to work hard.
11) To extend the next question a bit further, in a recent article I analyzed, one reiteration in the discussion was that school shootings played a role for Millennial parents as they felt a strong need to protect their children – Helicopter parents! Some institutions provide resources for parents including organizations, newsletters and webpages. One institution even had an Office of Parental Relations. Where is the line between reassuring parents and open communication and FERPA compliance?
“It is important to see parents as an ally – not a negative. Today’s students are very connected to their parents and parents have more influence than they think. We need to help parents understand how they can help their student be successful. One reason parents are quite involved – parents have saved for their child to go to college. They see it as their money that is paying for their child to go to college. They feel that they should have a say. The stakes are high and the costs are high.”
12) Parents of Generation X college students were known for providing emotional support, financial support and passive encouragement. In what ways do parents of Millennial college students show their support to their children today?
“Parents are a greater diversity than they used to be. When I was a college student most parents of college students went to college, themselves. They were more professional in interactions. Parents supported educational system because they understood it. Today we have a whole new spectrum of individuals coming to college whose parents do not have any experience with college life and preparing for college. Some parents are very supportive of their students and sometimes want to do too much for them and sometimes students are almost homeless with little or no parental support. There is real value in figuring things out for yourself. This helps you develop critical thinking skills. This is one of our challenges. Sometimes we are just trying to be helpful! The challenge we have is that we have created a fragile generation because we have so many supports in place – students do not think they can support themselves.”
13) In your experiences, what are some approaches used to help students develop independence while in college?
“I always encourage students to get involved in some kind or organization to develop leadership skills. Helping them learn that they sky is the limit. In order to be really independent, you have to build confidence. How do we ingrain in our students that they can be successful? Our faculty and staff are our tools to showing students how successful they can be. Being independent is a scary thing for this generation. I do not want to generalize, but it is common.
When I went to college, the expectation was clear. I had a doubt, but knew I had to meet the expectation. Young people today are faced with a different economic situation.”
[**Kahn Academy – Money Matters – teaches tutorial on how to budget, great for college students]
14) Given your experience and full work history in higher education as Dean of student services, public relations, admissions, instructor and now college President, what are some evolving trends in issues college students have?
[During this time we discussed mental health in higher education. I suggested that I was considering seeking my counseling credentials and certification after completing my Master’s degree due to high demand for counseling services in higher education.
Dr. Anderson informed me that her prior institution’s state of Wyoming has the highest rate of suicide per capita. “Seemingly everyone knows someone who has committed suicide.” Dr. Anderson discussed some initiatives that Casper College implemented to raise prevention and awareness of the issue.
15) If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of professional advice 20 years ago, what would that advice be?
“Might have started on doctorate sooner – it didn’t used to be so much of a criteria for jobs as it is now. Because I did it when I did, I had the opportunity to be in a cohort and didn’t have to spend as much time away as you can do most doctorate programs online. I have made a lot of sacrifices and worked long hours. I was grateful to have such a supportive family through this journey.
[Next, I asked Dr. Anderson what advice she had for me, as a graduate student:]
Go for it – try it. Take risks when applying for jobs whether you believe you don’t have the credentials or experience. You may be what someone is looking for. “The sky is the limit.”
Dr. Joanna Anderson began her role as President at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri in July of 2013. With her range of experience collected over the course of 26 years, Anderson brought with her some new perspectives of student affairs I, as an employee and graduate student, was eager to learn of. Dr. Anderson and I met to discuss Millennial college students, trends in higher education and best practices to meet the needs of higher education’s newest generation.
The interview with Dr. Anderson began with me asking why she chose to enter the field of higher education and what her philosophy of student success is comprised of. “My family background shows a strong value of education. I always knew I was going to college and had support from my family to continue my education”
(Anderson, 2013). Dr. Anderson shared
with me that she is grateful for her family’s support, however, recognizes that
not all college students today have a support network. “It is part of our job
to help students understand what getting a college education is all about.”
Dr. Anderson and I discussed common characteristics among Millennial college students, “with trends in technology, this generation seems to be very instant. Students have not had to wait for the things they want.” I agreed with Dr. Anderson’s statement as she shared with me the method she used to conduct research as an undergraduate and graduate student: “When I was a college student, I used notecards to write out facts and cite my sources.” Dr. Anderson shared with me the story of her uncle’s dissertation, which was typed on a typewriter. “73 percent of college students use the Internet more than the library, while only nine percent said they use the library more than the Internet for information searching”
(Drumheller, 2011, p. 24).
“Compared to then, students now can use word processing and do a quick search for information; the information is much more accessible than it used to be,” Dr. Anderson accounted. The term ‘instant gratification’ arose to identify Millennial college students. An article by Angela Provitera McGlynn coincides with this term: “[Students] are accustomed to 24-7 conveniences. They can get instant answers on the Web; shop online day or night; and get responses from their friends simultaneously”
(2008, pp. 20-21).
“It is argued that Millennial students are: 1) conventionally motivated and respectful; 2) structured rule followers; 3) protected and sheltered; 4) cooperative and team-oriented; 5) talented achievers; and 6) confident and optimistic about their futures”
2007, p. 23).
I see many patterns with Dr. Elam, Dr. Stratton and Dr. Gibson’s quote and my
interview with Dr. Anderson. Anderson claims that she believes the Millennial
generation, while protected and sheltered, is also very resourceful to finding
Though Anderson views Millennial college students as socialized, she brought with it an excellent point: “most students have a personal and social network, if they do not they can be lost in the shuffle. College used to be a time to form social relationships and it is more difficult now because they utilize technology much more and sometimes do not communicate effectively. “Some researchers fear that Millennial students, being over-reliant on communications technology, will have stunted interpersonal (face-to-face) skills”
(Elam, 2007, p. 21). College students may have delayed
development in communication skills, however, prefer to work in groups.
The Millennial generation has an interesting relationship with communication; it is reiterated in countless articles that they prefer to work with groups and as teams, but are delayed in interpersonal communication. When I asked Dr. Anderson about social interactions and development of independence among Millennial students, she replied with a response that I really connected with, “I always encourage students to get involved in some kind of organization to develop leadership skills. These experiences help them learn that they sky is the limit,” she shared. Being independent is a scary concept for this generation. I do not want to generalize, but it is common,” Anderson added.
Anderson stated, “Not everyone learns the same way. We have to find ways to help students that do not learn best in the traditional high school format,” when discussing learning styles and methods of instruction. McGlynn suggests that faculty should adapt instructional methods to meet the needs and preferences of students: “Educators need to maximize this generations’ preferences for working and playing in groups in order to engage them with course material”
(2008, p. 21). “Generational
differences can significantly affect the day-to-day life of faculty. Spending a
semester with a group of people you don’t “get” and who don’t “get” you can
both demotivate and deenergize even the most dedicated faculty members” (Espinoza,
2012, p. 30).
In the realm of her experience at North Central Missouri College, Dr. Joanna Anderson established experience working with parents. “Parents are a greater diversity than they used to be. When I was a college student most parents of college students went to college, themselves. Parents supported the educational system because they understood it. Today we have a whole new spectrum of individuals coming to college whose parents do not have any experience with college life and preparing for college.” In my current role of Assistant Director of Residence Life, this piece that Dr. Anderson shared strongly resonated with me professionally but also on a personal level, as I too began my academic journey as a first-generation college student.
Many Millennial college students maintain a close relationship to their guardians. “[Students] are often exceedingly close to their parents, who assume participatory roles in their children’s educational pursuits”
(Coomes, 2004). “It is important to see parents as an
ally, not a negative. Today’s students are very connected to their parents and
parents have more influence than they think. Because of this, we need to help
parents understand how they can help their student be successful,” Anderson expressed.
Parents of Generation X college students were known for providing emotional support, financial support and passive encouragement
When I asked what ways parents of Millennial college students show support, Dr.
Anderson suggested, “Some parents are very supportive of their student and
sometimes want to do too much for them and sometimes students are almost
homeless with little or no parental support.” The next question that arose was
how we, as student affairs professionals can best support Millennial college
students: “The challenge we have is that we have created a fragile generation
because we have so many supports in place and students do not think they can
support themselves. There is a real value in figuring things out for yourself.”
Some Millennial students are too reliant on parental support. “Attending college part time and living at home are known as “at-risk” factors for degree completion. For these students in particular, it is important to involve the parents in encouraging and motivating their children to devote the time and energy needed to do well in college”
(McGlynn, 2008, p. 22). As Anderson
suggested, student affairs practitioners can help students by working with the
parents. Parents become invested in their students’ education; “One reason
parents are quite involved is that parents have saved for their child to go to
college. They see it as their money that is paying for their child to go to
“In an effort to accommodate increasing parental involvement, one university has implemented several initiatives, including: 1) Parents’ Weekends in both fall and spring semesters; 2) newsletters for parents; and 3) a Parents’ Advisory Council that meets regularly with the vice chancellor of student affairs to discuss campus events and issues”
(Elam, 2007, p. 23). Initiatives that involve parents help
parents understand the education system and better support their student. Marc
Cutright explains the pertinence of the partnership relationship when working
with parents: “Family relationships involve deep emotional connections, rights
to speak and be considered in decisions, an evolving maturity and focus based
on time, and commitments to stick with one another through thick and thin. For
most institutions, that kind of relationship with parents, although fairly
“high maintenance,” is more productive than the contractual, consumerist one
that it displaces” (2008, p. 43).
My biggest takeaway from interviewing Dr. Anderson was the overall experience of having the opportunity to sit down with the President of State Fair Community College and hear about her perspectives on topics that I am learning in my classes. I found it to be a very refreshing experience. Dr. Anderson helped me make connections between my position at SFCC and my studies with Arkansas Tech University. At the end of the interview I asked for Dr. Anderson’s advice or words of experience in terms of finishing graduate studies and establishing a career: “Go for it. Take risks when applying for jobs whether you believe you don’t have the credentials or experience. You may be what someone is looking for.”
Anderson, J. (2013, October 17). Interview of Practice. (A. Tribble, Interviewer)
Coomes, M. D. (2004). Serving the Millennial Students. New Directions in Student Services.
Cutright, M. (2008). From Helicopter Parent to Valued Partner: Shaping the Parental Relationship for Student Success. New Directions for Higher Education, 39-48.
Dean, D. R. (2012). Generation on a Tightrope. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Drumheller, K. H. (2011). Cell Phones, Text Messaging, and Facebook: Competing Time Demands of Today's College Students. College Teaching, 23-30.
Elam, C. G. (2007). Welcoming a New Generation to College: The Millennial Students. Journal of College Admission, 20-25.
Espinoza, C. (2012). Millennial Values and Boundaries in the Classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 29-41.
McGlynn, A. P. (2008). Millennials in College: How do we Motivate Them? Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, 19-22.