We want YOU to be a part of campus life, YOU belong here, there is something here for YOU!
When students at the community college where I work go to use the restroom they are greeted with Student Life persuasion in every stall. We have a monthly publication called “The Monthly Stall” in which we use to advertise Student Life events and opportunities while we have a captive audience. When you are working to capture such a diverse audience: commuter students, traditional age students, non-traditional students, potential students, etc., it is vital to capture every opportunity to get the student engagement message out. What is the “student engagement message?” It is important that all students, regardless of background or situation, are receiving a consistent message. We want YOU to be a part of campus life, YOU belong here, there is something here for YOU! When you don’t have residential students this can prove a monumental challenge.
In addition to “The Monthly Stall” idea, some other ways in which we try to relay our message to the diverse population we serve includes social media, text messaging, and classroom outreach. The strategy here is to get the message out in as many ways as possible. I’m sure the ideas outlined above are probably nothing new to most student affairs professionals at community colleges. We are all in the same boat and have probably exhausted all of these forms of media to communicate our message to students.
The “aha” moment for me in this process of continuously trying to find new ways to relay a message of belonging to the student body came with a tried and true concept, collaboration. For me, one of the most effective ways to reach out to a diverse student population is by tapping into one of your most valuable resources, students. Assuming there are already established student groups and organizations on your community college campus, you can use them to spread your message of student engagement. Marketing the idea that there is something here for everyone and everyone belongs can be done through collaboration between student groups. This requires changing the mentality of your groups and organizations from being strictly independent to being collaborative. When one group plans an event, encourage them to intentionally involve another group.
Changing the culture so that the term “Student Life” means all organizations and student groups work together to promote student engagement across campus is an ongoing process. The key is working with the different student groups to ensure everyone has the same mindset of constantly promoting student engagement, constantly communicating a message of belonging, and providing opportunities for collaboration between student groups. When we conduct surveys or assessments about where students learn about opportunities for involvement or events on campus, we have found that social media, texting, and print media does work. We have also learned that since we have made efforts to cultivate collaboration between student groups, the number of students who responded on the survey that they learned about student engagement opportunities from other students or student groups has been growing. In other words, it is working!
Every single community college campus is different and contains a different dynamic within. There is not a one-size-fits-all strategy that will work for promoting student engagement. Collaboration has proven to be an effective method for us here in rural Illinois; I’m hopeful it may be a useful tactic for others as well. The beauty of fostering collaboration between student groups is that even if it isn’t effective for you, your students will learn valuable skills and lessons from the process. We are teachers, teaching valuable lessons, and seizing every teachable moment.
This post is part of our #comm_college series, which aims to explore experiences developing community college policies and processes that impact the recruitment, retention, and completion of community college students. What human interest stories do you have of community college student resilience, persistence, and success? What about a stories of transition, challenge, or transformation? A variety of SA pros working in student affairs at a community college will share their insights. For more information, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Eric Lambert on the History of Student Activities