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NMSU professor researches development of student affairs professionals turned faculty

Rene Guillaume, a former student affairs professional turned faculty member at New Mexico State University, is using his experience in student services to base research on how other former student affairs professionals carry out their new roles as faculty in an environment where scholarship is a priority.


Woman and man standing at a desk
New Mexico State University assistant professor Rene Guillaume, right, and one of his students, Magdalena Saiz, co-wrote a research article along with student Adam Amador about student affairs professionals who pursue doctoral degrees and become faculty. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)
Woman and man talking
New Mexico State University assistant professor Rene Guillaume, right, and one of his students, Magdalena Saiz, discuss some of the research and some of their data sets in his office at O’Donnell Hall. Guillaume’s research involves student affairs professionals who pursue doctoral degrees and become faculty. (NMSU photo by Josh Bachman)

Guillaume earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration from NMSU in 2012. At the time, he was the university’s TRiO/Upward Bound program director. Prior to that, Guillaume worked as the area coordinator for apartment life and student family housing for NMSU’s Department of Housing and Residential Life, and as the residence life hall director for Monagle Hall on the NMSU campus.

“In order to achieve tenure, faculty must demonstrate capabilities in teaching, service and scholarship, and the previous literature in peer-reviewed journals devalues service and emphasizes scholarship,” Guillaume said. “As an administrator, the most important thing for me was student services and support, so I had a difficult time reconciling service with scholarship.”

After becoming an assistant professor in NMSU’s College of Education, Guillaume focused on professors and faculty of color in his research. Last year, Guillaume was nominated for the NMSU Patricia Christmore Faculty Teaching Award because of his understanding of the El Paso/Las Cruces region and its sociocultural surroundings, and because of his engagement with students.

“Dr. Guillaume’s research is exceptionally important as the field of educational leadership has evolved to be more inclusive of women and faculty of color,” said Azadeh Osanloo, co-director of the School of Teacher Preparation, Administration and Leadership at NMSU. “Negotiating the tensions between being a productive scholar and thoughtful mentor/instructor can be difficult given the promotion and tenure demands in higher education and natural inclinations for student success. Rene’s work creates a thoughtful space for these tensions to be meaningfully explored while providing practical pathways forward. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated, hard-working, and empathic faculty member in the School of TPAL.”

With the help of two doctoral students in the Educational Leadership and Administration program at NMSU, Guillaume wrote “Prepared to Lead: Educational Leadership Graduates as Catalysis for Social Justice Praxes,” an article that will be published in an academic journal in the near future. The students who co-wrote the article with Guillaume are Magdalena Saiz and Adam Amador.

The study looked at 10 graduates from one ELA program and highlighted how graduates from one educational leadership program relied on their academic knowledge and applied critical leadership to operationalize social justice praxis.

“As a researcher, my primary line of inquiry looks at faculty life, teaching and culture, in particular for faculty of color in departments of educational leadership and administration,” Guillaume said. “My secondary line of inquiry looks at educational leadership and administration as a whole, to include student experiences and the experiences of faculty in these programs who identify as student affairs professionals.”

Guillaume also co-authored the collaborative autoethnography, “Exploring the Experiences of Student Affairs Professionals Turned Faculty.” According to the article, as faculty devote more time to research, less time is spent on teaching and teaching-related activities such as advising and counseling, and student contact. One interview subject participating in the study said he found himself having difficulty with the fact that he often had to place himself ahead of the interests of students, an experience that contrasted with the students-first focus of his job as an administrator.

Guillaume related to that subject’s experience. Guillaume said when he first became a professor, he had a hard time saying no to student research projects.

“You’re supporting students so much, that there’s not enough time for your research,” Guillaume said.

According to the study’s findings, the current tenure and promotion process may be improved by incorporating a “less narrow definition of research/scholarship,” which would allow faculty to use their practical experiences to better prepare future student affairs administrators and support “larger institutional goals centered on student outcomes.”

Saiz, who is the coordinator of Mental Health and Academic Counseling at Las Cruces Public Schools, said professionals who are pursuing graduate degrees benefit from learning about the practical experiences of faculty and from a learning model that values collaboration with the community and stakeholders, addressing social inequalities, and questioning and advocating for what the community’s needs are. Saiz is currently working on her dissertation with Guillaume, focusing on Latina educational administrators.

“Working with Dr. Guillaume is an experience that extends beyond what I’ve learned from the program,” Saiz said. “I’m grateful that he treats me as a colleague, and how he supports me as a student is very uplifting.”