8 Conversations to Have on Campus This Year (Part I)
By: Brian Jensen October 7, 2019
The beginning of a new academic year always brings with it the renewed energy to see growth and transformation in student’s lives. As you strategize new approaches to this growth and plot out how you will tackle this year’s development, checkout the following conversation ideas.
Consider having these conversations throughout the year with your colleagues as you work together for lasting student transformation.
1. Discuss Why Vocation Matters
College campuses have the responsibility to provide students with, in the words of one of my own mentors, “a vision of life for life.” Your work with college students must have a bigger vision than simply graduation. Supporting their efforts to complete a degree is important, yes, but equipping them to respond faithfully to all of their life’s callings is paramount. Christian campuses provide a fertile ground for this undertaking. The rich soil of students’ lives provide ample opportunities for conversations about what the rest of post-college life will look like.
Questions you should be asking yourself and the colleagues you work with include: How do we define “vocation” on our own campus? What programming is currently happening to help students obtain a broader vision of what vocation means? Can we join some of these efforts that are already taking place? How can we best prepare students to think about responding to the various ‘calls’ God places on their lives--as student, son/daughter, employee, spouse, father/mother, citizen, etc?
2. Discuss Why Institutional Well-being Matters
It is no surprise that mental-health education and response ranks as a top priority among education leaders today. The need is great and institutions should continue to resource their responders in great ways. A discussion to have however, should include a broader scope of what well-being should and could look like on your own campus. Students need to see healthy living modeled for them. So, broaden the conversation about mental-health, beyond just crisis response, to include healthy habit formation, institutional structure and design that promotes well-being, and what reasonable expectations for all community members should look like.
Questions you should be asking yourself and the colleagues you work with include: Does our campus currently recognize the importance of mental-health--for students AND staff and faculty? Does our staff model healthy living that could be modeled? Do we currently have healthy and reasonable expectations of our students and of each other? Are there conversations about well-being that we’re not having, and we should be having?
3. Discuss Why Diversity Matters
Because it is crucial to operating within a kingdom perspective. Because it is echoing across our country’s rhetoric right now. This conversation has been, is, and will continue to happen all around us. It needs to happen on your campus. Students need to talk, at length, about what it means to live faithfully in a cross-cultural, multidimensional world. Campuses need to have these conversations, embrace them, and in turn help students navigate the complexities they face, now and into the future.
Questions you should be asking yourself and the colleagues you work with include: Where, and how, are these conversations currently happening on our campus? Who on our campus can champion these discussions and be best suited to continue the conversation with wisdom and courage? Do our students of color feel welcomed and embraced on our campus? Are there current structures or designs of our campus and its programming that can lead to certain students feeling marginalized?
4. Discuss Why Human Sexuality Matters
Over the past decade, not many conversations have dominated the Christian college cultural landscape like the sexual identity one has. From national headlines to faculty senate meetings, it is hard to have missed this one. Much has been written, discussed, and debated when it comes to sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity on college campuses. I’m just here to remind you to use the invaluable resources available for these difficult conversations--and to keep having these conversations on your campus. Remember to keep them soaked in the gospel and always with the approach of love.
Questions you should be asking yourself and the colleagues you work with include: What does it look like to love my neighbor well? How do we embrace difficult conversations on campus and approach these with grace and charity? Where do students feel safe on campus to have conversations about sexuality (you may need to start with “do they feel safe…”)? Who are the wise and trusted voices that can be invited to speak into this space?
Read Part 2 here.
A deeper exploration of each of these topics can be found in Reimagining the Student Experience: Formative Practices for Changing Times, edited by Brian Jensen & Sarah Visser.
What other relevant topics are you all discussing this year?