Drs. Amy Wilson, Carmen McCallum and Matthew Shupp, co-authors of the book Inclusive Supervision in Student Affairs, shared four tenets of inclusive supervision during a Student Affairs NOW podcast. They include Creating Safe Spaces, Cultivating Holistic Development, Demonstrating Vulnerability and Building Capacity in Others. Inclusive supervision is a key to success. As Wilson said, “We can’t afford not to invest in our staff.”

  • Creating Safe Spaces. Wilson said, “So this may be done through creating a very open and trusting environment where staff can get feedback without fear; where there is an openness to different styles, different ways of thinking, different approaches; that every voice is valued, no matter what level you are within that organizational chart; that there’s a real openness to and an ethic of care and the personal interactions and where supervisors help staff navigate the culture of the office, the culture of the institution and just some of those boundaries.”
  • Cultivating Holistic Development. This involves thinking about our supervisees as “these complex beings,” Wilson said. We need to consider people’s dimensions of identity and welcome, nurture, cultivate and celebrate them, whether it’s their race, gender, personality, sexual orientation… “all of that comes into that space,” she explained. “Supervisors who are more adept at bringing in those identities and welcoming those identities in the space create more responsive and satisfied staff.”
  • Demonstrating Vulnerability. The authors found that people considered the most multiculturally competent were willing to acknowledge that they didn’t know everything, admit to their limits and engage in the discomfort of cultural mistakes. Those personal moments of vulnerability, Wilson said, “have the power to transform.”
  • Building Capacity in Others. This is “both an action of inclusive supervisors,” Wilson explained, “but also an outcome of inclusive supervision.” Supervisors can actively invite and welcome conversations about social justice and inclusion, she said, while also focusing professional goal setting “around enhancing your competency in this area.” It’s also about modeling inclusiveness, therefore “both intentionally and unintentionally building your capacity to do the same.”

To learn more about top student affairs supervision strategies, like this one above, as well as many other topics, check out our How to Thrive in Student Affairs: Self-Directed Courses for New Professionals.