In my last post on Student Engagement, I laid out some distinctions in the term “student engagement” comprising techniques, practices, and modalities. I ended by mentioning the modality of Student Engagement Staff that we implemented in the Philosophy and Religious Studies department. In this post, I want to outline the nature of the Student Engagement Staff (SES) endeavor.
As an initial attempt at providing a working definition for this modality of Student Engagement Staff we came up with the following points:
- Student Engagement Staff is dedicated to student advocacy; promoting students’ success and completion of their education at GCC.
- Student Engagement Staff is dedicated to educating all instructors about the importance of early intervention when students begin to slacken in their attendance and/or coursework.
- Student Engagement Staff is a coordinating link in the process of connecting faculty and students to resources that further their educational goals.
- Student Engagement Staff is committed to enhancing the general awareness of Student Engagement across the campus through various events and programs.
A key component of student engagement is a focus on the triangulation of three key elements: students, professors, and resources.
A reasonable set of questions to ask is: “What is unique about SES? Aren’t there many people, departments, and staff devoted to the same agenda?”
In considering the nature of Student Engagement Staff we have come to recognize two distinctive elements. The first element is that of being a generalist modality. Most of the modalities on campus are specialist in nature. Think of the following departments and the specialized help they offer:
- Disability Resources and Services
- Center for Learning
- Financial Aid
The desire and design was to have SES be more general in nature. Student Engagement Staff would, thus, seek to accumulate information on a number of different resources available on campus. What was given up in depth of specificity was compensated by a greater breadth of coverage. SES was designed to be a sort of clearing-house of information regarding resource as well as a point of contact into the more specialized departments.
This generalist modality was to work in tandem with the second key element—fluidity and flexibility. Being situated in the Philosophy and Religious Studies department allows for increased response time in intervention as well as a closer connection to professors who are the frontline in seeing those students most in need of help. We like to refer to this as “Bringing the institution to the student.” A quick example may help illustrate this. An adjunct professor came into the department office asking for help regarding a student in his class expressing suicidal ideation. I was able to immediately come to his class, meet the student, and offer to walk this student over to the Counseling Center. I am not trained as a specialist in counseling but as a generalist I knew enough about what resources we had on campus that could help. Being able to respond immediately and personally helped the professor maintain his focus on his duties while also allowing the student to get personalized help.
In my next post, I will detail the specifics of what we are doing with Student Engagement at both the classroom level and the individual level as well as highlight some of our success stories.