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CAS: Not Just for Assessment

As a new year begins, I wanted to take a moment to remind you that CAS can be your friend. It can support the work that you are doing at this time of year. Many people think CAS is a tool for assessment. It is indeed that, but it's so much more. CAS can be helpful in a number of other ways and I wanted to share a few of these purposes.
CAS: Not Just for Assessment
 
With the start of a new academic year comes the familiar buzz of excited and anxious students and apprehensive parents with U-Hauls, not realizing the small size of the residence hall room their child will be living in. Some parents are sad that they are dropping their children off for the next chapter in lives. Others are eager to enjoy an empty nest. This roller coaster of emotion is part of the reason we decided to work in the field of higher education.  
 
As a new year begins, I wanted to take a moment to remind you that CAS can be your friend. It can support the work that you are doing at this time of year. Many people think CAS is a tool for assessment. It is indeed that, but it's so much more. CAS can be helpful in a number of other ways and I wanted to share a few of these purposes.
 
Design New Programs and Services
The CAS Standards of professional practice are useful tools to assess a current program or service, but they are also useful guides to create new ones. The CAS Standards outline key functions, responsibilities, and infrastructure needed for departments. This information can be used to develop a proposal for a new program or service or develop an action plan to create one that has already been improved.
 
Devise Staff Development
The beginning of the academic year is often the time offices set their staff meetings for the year. Rather than waiting until the day before a meeting to determine what type of professional development to offer during the meeting, develop a PD curriculum for the semester or year. The ACPA/NASPA Competencies are a useful resource, but so are the CAS Standards. A director could review the mission and program section of the standards for a particular office and then develop activities to assist staff in effectively carrying out those functions.
 
Create and Assess Learning and Development Outcomes
Never before have learning and development outcomes been so important to cocurricular programs. Myriad stakeholders from parents to lawmakers are challenging the return on investment of programs across the institution. Learning and development outcomes can help programs articulate their value, especially if those cocurricular program outcomes are aligned with institutional outcomes and outcomes employers are seeking. CAS has developed a set six learning domains and dimensions, which are mapped to other frameworks such as LEAP, Learning Reconsidered, and the Degree Qualifications Profile. Departments can use these CAS outcomes right “off the shelf” or revise and adapt them for specific contexts. 
 
Focus Time and Energy
Many offices on campus are having do to more with less – less money, less staff, less support. Difficult decisions have to be made regarding what tasks prioritized. The CAS Standards can assist with this decision-making. The CAS Standards describe the key functions programs and services should provide. Departments could create a list of the standards and guidelines. Focusing on the standards staff could utilize a departmental meeting to prioritize which are the most important. This identified list could then provide direction for the year.
 
Strategic Planning
Departments often begin strategic planning processes in the fall as they can take a few months to complete. Similar to how the CAS Standards are using to focus time and energy, the CAS Standards can be used to identify priorities for the coming year. Staff could rank the standards in each section select 6-8 standards to focus on for the coming year. Resources would be diverted to these areas and action plans could be developed to ensure the standards are fully addressed.
 
The CAS Standards can be useful in many ways beyond assessment. As the new academic year begins, consider how your department can use the CAS Standards to do the best job you can to help students achieve their potential.

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