Free food, raffle prizes and giveaways are all common strategies that student affairs professionals use to entice students to attend programs and events on campus. Although this method of bribery is usually an efficient way to draw large numbers of students to events, its’ overall purpose is ineffective if students are not engaged once you have them as a captive audience.As a student affairs practitioner and Generation Y (born in the early 1980s-2000s) graduate student, I have the fluidity to understand the purpose of programming on campus as it relates to retention and progression, yet relate to the frustration from undergraduate students who attend programs and never become actively engaged.The following steps can be used as a framework to effectively and efficiently engage student populations during campus events:
Identify the purpose. Professors are required to produce a syllabus for each course that they instruct. The syllabus serves as an indicator of what will be learned and predicted outcomes for the duration of the course. Similar to a syllabus, when planning a campus program or event, the desired outcome and purpose of the event must be identified to students early on. When students do not have to decipher why they are there, they can devote their time to learning while they are there.
Interactive presentations. Students get enough of lecture style presentations while they are in class. Out of the classroom events should provide students with an opportunity to engage on a different level. Using classroom clickers, diving students into small groups and integrating social media into the presentation are some examples of ways that you can approach learning outside of the classroom.
Timing is everything. If you have ever planned an event before, you know the importance of proper timing. However, you may not have considered the importance of catering the start and end time of events with student schedules. It is important to be familiar with what time classes start and end at your institution. Programming should begin and end at times that give students enough time to leave class and make it to the program on time.
Summative assessments. Sure, the importance of assessment is something that student affairs professionals hear about all the time. Likewise, the findings of assessments are often a major factor in determining whether or not a department or program will receive funding. As a result of this, students are often bombarded with survey after survey to complete after every event. When student affairs practitioners receive program and event evaluations, they are obligated to do more with that information than to simply create a report and archive the data. Student affairs practitioners cannot be effective if they become complacent. Programs and events should consistently be evaluated to meet the needs of the ever-changing student that we serve.
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