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Academic/Knowledge Competency Reflection

Name: Kevin Ngo

Class: Student Development Theory
Product(s): Academic/Knowledge Competency Reflection
Purpose: The goal of this project is to analyze my thoughts and experiences after writing my
first paper for Student Development Theory on unhealthy masculinity in college men. The
analysis will include reactions to the entire writing process from conception of the topic, to
writing the paper, and then to reading feedback on the paper. I will also explore thoughts I had
about the inherent scholarly nature of student affairs work and feelings that arose while I wrote
about unhealthy masculinity as they pertain to my work as a student affairs educator.
Primary Competencies Addressed:
Knowledge Competencies
D. cross-cultural and diversity-related issues within the context of higher education.
E. higher education systems, history, and how student affairs roles, responsibilities and
systems are infused into the larger education picture.
G. students diverse characteristics, demographics, and attributes and how they influence
students education and development.
I. current issues and practices in student affairs profession.

The assignment for the first Student Development Theory paper was to write about any
issue that is affecting todays college student. I thought about the prompt for a while because I
was not sure if I wanted to write about an issue that had affected me while I was an
undergraduate student. This was because I felt the problems I had were not tied to any of my

identities and would, therefore, be too shallow to write about in my first theory paper. One
problem I had was feeling somewhat disconnected from the rest of campus because three out of
four years, I lived in campus housing that was far from main campus in communities that were
very small or people mostly kept to themselves. While this is still a valid issue that presents
unique challenges to students, I wanted to focus on something with more concerning and urgent
trends because student affairs, to a degree, can be like triage, as well. A pressing student issue I
would like to see largely addressed is unhealthy masculinity (I.).
For my paper, I found a wealth of information about unhealthy masculinity, but
unfortunately, a majority of the sources were older than ten years. This was sad to see because it
seems like more and more instances of violence and aggression are filling the mediaviolence
and aggression directed toward women and people of other genders. For someone looking to
compile research on the topic, though, it can be discouraging to see that much research is
outdated. With research that is not current, it can then create a cycle where people who do not
have the means to conduct original research may then choose to study something else. I asked
myself, though, if I give up on this topic, then who else will talk about it? If no one talked
about how unhealthy masculinity shows up on college campuses, I cannot imagine how much
easier it would be for some campuses to erase the fact that sexual assault occurs at colleges and
universities. Pushing past the difficulty with outdated research, I carried on with learning more
about this topic (I.).
Through my research, I learned some definitions of what unhealthy masculinity is, and
this shed some light on ways that it manifests and how certain factors cause those manifestations
to show up more. Many of those factors touched on students development and diverse
characteristics, which contributed to how they behaved. Understanding this helped to frame my
understanding of the issue because it can be easy to see the problems with how some college

men behave. It is important to understand, however, their behaviors do not occur in a vacuum;
that is, underlying reasons inform peoples words and actions. A common theme in the research
was violence, which was the critical part of unhealthy masculinity I wanted to focus on from the
start. Most could agree we live in a patriarchal society that wrongly values men over everyone
else, but when these men are able to get away with hurting others and claiming it was to protect
their masculinity, we cannot stay silent. The assignment also allowed for a student affairs
application where I was able to think about how student affairs educators can begin to address
this issue (D.).
I focused primarily on education to start working against unhealthy masculinity as I think
it is important to understand what unhealthy masculinity is and why it should be addressed on
college campuses. Because student affairs often places emphasis on social justice and diversity, I
also see it as a field where people should model the tenets of social justice. For example, when
talking about privileged identities, one way to give back some of that privilege is to address
problematic speech or behavior in spaces where a targeted group cannot or does not feel safe
enough to speak for themselves. Another way to give up power is to allow oppressed groups to
advocate for themselves. In addressing unhealthy masculinity, male-identified people in student
affairs can model and teach these strategies to students, which takes the education and begins to
put it into action. The overall process of writing this paper was rewarding because it allowed me
to reflect on how I show up in my life as someone who does have access to male privilege.
While I acknowledge that I have male privilege, I am also aware that my other identities affect
my access to it, and this is something I need more time to fully explore (I.).
Since I did a lot of research in my undergraduate experience, the actual writing of the
paper was not too difficult because I am used to the steps it takes to put research together in a
meaningful way. The more difficult part was actually taking the information I was finding and

applying it to myself. Recently, I have begun to feel that I do not identify with any gender when
it comes to gender expression. I still identify as male, but I am also feeling uncomfortable about
identifying as a man because of the implications of the socialization surrounding what it means
to be a man and because I think I exist beyond the gender binary. I simply feel societal
implications of toughness and stoicism, for example, do not align with how I view myself. So if
I am still questioning this part of my identity, how can I use this information to help myself and
others? Should I be helping others if I have not fully figured out this part of myself? The
conclusion I came to is this: most people cannot say they have no growth or development left to
achieve at any stage in their life. It would not be fair to hold myself to such a high standard
when I am here precisely to grow and learn more about myself. For example, I believe I am a
strong writer, yet with the feedback on my theory assignment, I saw I had many areas to improve
upon. That was exciting because it means that I can improve and become better than the strong
writer I already am. It is exciting because I know that improvement is possible. I also find great
value in learning alongside other people, and just because I may be in higher position of
authority than a student I am working with, there should be no assumed superiority or
advancement because very few stories of peoples lives are predictable or linear. Coming to
graduate school, I was also looking for opportunities to do my own research, and while I still do
not know if that is possible, this paper gave me many ideas of intersectionality I would like to
examine. I am referring mainly to intersections of queer Asian masculinity and how research on
these identities can help students that are similar to me in their identities and lived experiences.
Informing my future professional practice, I know I have much more to learn and unpack
my male privilege and how it intersects with my other privileged and oppressed identities.
Doing so will require more reading, reflecting, and speaking with other to more fully understand
and better navigate how I show up around students and other colleagues. Specifically with

masculinity, I would love to be able to engage with my male residents about how their gender
expression affects others around themnegatively and positively. While I already have
intentional conversations with my male RAs about how they can work within their communities,
I think I also need to show up as someone who can be a positive male role model,
acknowledging I may not automatically be a positive role model for everyone. To do this, I will
try to educate myself more on how unhealthy masculinity manifests in college students, how my
own masculinity impacts my behaviors, and how to promote and develop healthy masculinity in
students and myself. One issue I have encountered with Resident Assistant recruitment is the
disparity between male and female candidates that apply for the position. I would love to
collaborate with Men in the Movement and conduct more research on positive masculinity and
male leadership to enhance the number of male applicants the department receives.
In general, I found this experience to be helpful and has started me on a journey to
unpack even more of my identities as they relate to how I work as a student affairs educator.
There are many opportunities within student affairs to conduct interesting and valid research, and
because student affairs also has a heavy emphasis on immediate application, I find the field has
tastefully combined both theory and practice.