8 Conversations to Have on Campus This Year (Part II)

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Continuing on our list of conversations to have on campus this year. Read Part 1 here.

5. Discuss Why Citizenship Matters

There is a conversation about service-learning that my friend Jeff Bouman likes to take beyond just service-learning. Thinking more robustly, he believes, as do I, that key goals of Christian higher education include citizenship, civility, and justice. And students participating in service-learning is critical here, but helping students grasp a bigger vision of faithful citizenship includes much more than a couple community service projects.

Questions you should be asking yourself and the colleagues you work with include: Are there concepts of service, citizenship, and/or civic engagement that show up in our institution’s mission statement - how can we help manifest these in our programmatic efforts? How can we help our students connect in meaningful ways with our local community? Are we, as staff and faculty, exhibiting healthy citizenship involvement?

6. Discuss Why Living-Learning Education Matters

Some of your campuses have actual designated living-learning spaces and some do not--that’s fine, all of you can still pay attention here. The idea here is to have a conversation about the intentionality of your residential spaces. For you private, residential colleges here, I’m preaching to the choir. But this incredible aspect of your value can become white noise when overlooked. You need to continue having the conversation about how your campus will diligently deliver an invaluable residential learning experience for all students.

Questions you should be asking yourself and the colleagues you work with include: How can we engage students intentionally outside of the classroom in a way that is meaningful for their growth and development? How do we actually describe our “value-add” when it comes to our institution’s residential experience? Where are students currently finding community on our campus, and what habits are these communities forming within them?

7. Discuss Why Student Success Matters

For most of you, this conversation is happening ad nauseum throughout the year, you don’t need this reminder. But keep having it! Please don’t let this one get lost among the long to-do lists. Approach it with wisdom and courage--your students need you to be thinking about how you can use today’s best practices to help them succeed. I always found it most helpful to use the “student success team” (or whatever you call it on your campus) to come up with the best approaches for our students. Use the wise minds around you as you figure out how to best serve your students.

Questions you should be asking yourself and the colleagues you work with include: Who gets to define success in your institution -- what influence do we have in this and how can our efforts support achieving this goal? What practical ways do you engage students in institutional success efforts? In what ways can all of our programming efforts support the goal of student success?

8. Discuss Why Academic and Student Affairs Collaboration Matters

Yes, I’m asking you to, yet again, embrace the age-old conversation as to how student affairs and academic affairs can work together. It is too important not to have this discussion every year, and to work together towards its manifestation every year. The invaluable result of our work at the intersection of the seamless student experience is too good to pass up. Make it a priority to work with colleagues “across the aisle” this year.

Questions you should be asking yourself and the colleagues you work with include: What meaningful points of contact do our students have with faculty outside of class? What meaningful points of contact do our students have with student affairs professionals inside the classroom? In what ways does our institution seek to develop the whole student: mind spirit, body? Where would the work of our student affairs professionals benefit from faculty input? Where would the academic realm benefit from input by student affairs professionals?

Obviously, this list of conversations is not exhaustive. You need to add to the list. The main idea here is that you are intentionally having conversations together about your work. Ask questions and encourage one another to excellent work.

May the Lord bless you and the work of your hands this year as you strive to glorify Him and further His kingdom.

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? 

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