Tag Archives: Philosophy & Religious Studies

reflections on student engagement–Part three

In my previous two posts, I focused on the theory and structure of the Student Engagement Staff position created less than two years ago in the Philosophy and Religious Studies department.  In implementing the program we chose to take a two-pronged approach that focused on (1) Classroom presentations and (2) Individual student assistance.  In this post, I will focus on the classroom aspect and its impact.

Classroom

Recognizing that many students are unaware of the many resources for student success available on our campus, I put together a 15-presentation that would introduce students to some of these resources as well as acquaint them with my role as Student Engagement Staff.  I have been modifying the list of resources we highlight in these presentations each semester but the list of resources we used this semester was as follows:

  • Advisement:  I always ask how many of the students have ever seen an advisor and I am amazed at how many have never seen an advisor on our campus.  I stress the need to be connecting with an advisor every semester they are here.
  • Basis Needs Support Site: This is the relatively new link which highlights access to resources regarding food, housing, safety, transportation, and paying for college.  I stress the fact that, although there are all sorts of issues outside of the campus that can get in the way of your education, there are resources available on this campus and through this campus that can potentially help.
  • Disability Resources and Services (DRS): I make quick mention of DRS and the kinds of issues they can help with in students’ lives. 
  • Brainfuse Online Writing Lab: I provide a step-by-step tutorial on how to access this resource and how to use it to produce better papers.  By taking the time to go over this tool I’m attempting to do a number of different things—(1) Give the students an immediate takeaway resource they can begin to use, (2) create the potential for students to become better writers, and (3) help professors by making it easier on them when they have to grade the writing of their students!  I know of at least one professor outside of the Philosophy and Religious Studies department that invites me to his classes just so his students have access this to training on this resource.
  • Raise Me Micro-scholarships: I end with this resource and explain that they may qualify for some monies from four-year institutions simply based on the work they do here at GCC.  (If you are not familiar with Raise Me I would encourage you to check out this link and click the “Student Overview Tutorial.”)  I like to tell students about one student on our campus who has qualified for $32,000.00 from a participating institution in another state.  I, then, like to ask, “Based on what I told you about Raise Me, how many of you think you might create a profile?”  Usually, 80-90% of the hands are raised.

I recognize that there are a myriad of other resources on our campus for the promotion of student success.  I have chosen these resources in consultation with others to respond to the twin issues of urgency and immediacy—some of the resources may be urgently needed at some point (e.g., food issues) and others can have an immediate pay-off (e.g., the online writing lab).

Presentation Impact

We have been excited to see the reach and impact of these presentations.  For the spring 2019 semester, I was able to present in 23 classes with a total of 353 students.  In the fall 2019 semester, I was in 34 classes with a total of 776 students.  This semester, spring 2020, I was able to present in 39 different classes to a total of 691 students. 

Semester Classes Students
Spring 2019 23 353
Fall 2019 34 776
Spring 2020 39 691

A further development has been the expansion of these presentations beyond the Philosophy and Religious Studies department.  I have also presented in classes in the Mathematics, Psychology, and the Public Safety Sciences departments.

We have also seen some good trends in those metrics we can track.  At the beginning of the fall 2019 semester (August), there were 280 Raise Me profiles.  After presenting in 34 classes to 776 students the number of Raise Me profiles on January 8, 2020, was 711!  As of this week, there are over 865 Raise Me profiles that have been created by students.  Of course, my presentations are not the sole cause of this increase in profile creation, but we do have confirmation that a number of students have created profiles in response to the presentations—I’ve even had students create a profile while I was presenting!

Another area we have seen an increase of activity concerns the online writing lab use through Brainfuse.  Going back to figures from the school-year 2017/2018 in which there was a pre-Brainfuse electronic writing lab, there were 320 uses—remember, that is for two semesters.  After the spring 2019 semester, there were 222 uses of the Brainfuse online writing lab.  After the fall 2019 semester, there were 327 uses—which is more than the entire school year of 2017/2018. 

As excited as we are to see the scope and impact of the classroom presentations, we are even more enthusiastic about the individual lives we have been able to help.  In my next post, I will detail some of these stories.

 

Reflections on Student Engagement–Part Two

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:

  • Advising
  • Counseling
  • Disability Resources and Services
  • Center for Learning
  • Financial Aid
  • Enrollment

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.