Connections to Campus
Department: Division of Student Affairs
By Matthew Jeffries, GIESORC Director
As we gear up to welcome our new and returning Cougs, I have been reflecting on how to best connect students to other offices in order for them to find a space on campus that is their own. Assisting our incoming students with finding a home and place for themselves at WSU is imperative to their success. With each student comes a different story, different experiences, different expectations, and different needs. Of course, these needs and expectations are seldom directly communicated to us. Instead, by getting to know students as we do, we learn what excites them and how to connect them to the opportunities that may provide them a home away from home. The options abound in what students can do here at WSU. From over 300 student organizations to on-campus jobs to engaging with the greater Pullman community, there is something for everyone!
The research overwhelming supports that students who are socially integrated at the institution are more likely to be retained (e.g., Braxton, Hirschy, & McClendon, 2004; Tinto, 2006). “The more a student perceives the potential of community on campus, the greater the student’s level of social integration” (Braxton, Hirschy, & McClendon, 2004). Through our interactions with students, we need to help expose them to numerous options and help them decide what opportunities are best for them. In addition, we need to help those who may be familiar with our resources branch out from what they are used to. For example, our transfer students may have experience with getting involved. However, for many of our transfer students, WSU may offer many more opportunities to be engaged on campus.
Opportunities to Connect
Opportunities to connect to WSU abound and there truly is something for everyone. From Residence Life and Dining Services to Greek life and Student Involvement, we have the resources in place to support all of our new Cougs! We offer options to try things that many could never dream of from Alternative Spring Break to being a member of the Residence Hall Association. In the next few paragraphs, I highlight a few of these opportunities and why connecting students to them is important.
Berger (1997) writes that a strong sense of community in residence halls aides in the integration of students, which leads to connections and retention of students. Some students find their connection with others in their residence halls through intramural sports, hall government or as a member of the Residence Hall Association. While many of these opportunities lead into resident assistant positions, all of these opportunities assist students in connecting with campus and developing their leadership skills.
Other students will find their connection to WSU through its thriving Greek community. From formal recruitment in August, to informal recruitment throughout the year, students have the opportunity to connect with other students who share the same values. The mentorship and leadership development potential in the Greek community is unparalleled. Additionally, grades of fraternity and sorority members tend to be higher than the campus average for men and women, respectively.
Even others will find their space just hanging out on the fourth floor of the CUB or in the Women’s Resource Center. As a predominately white institution, our growing diverse student body sometimes needs a place to feel at home in community with individuals who have shared experiences. Lori Patton (2011) and Kristen Renn (2011) have written on the importance of cultural identity centers and how they positively impact the community for marginalized groups.
Student Involvement and the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) offer numerous opportunities for involvement. From Emerging Leaders, andstudent-led conferences (e.g., VIBES, SHAPING, and CASHE) to the PNW Collegiate Leadership Conference, Student Involvement has opportunities for all Cougs to get more involved in leadership. At the CCE, the staff provides a variety of options for students to connect with the world around them. The CCE offers Cougs Vote, Alternative Spring Break options, Eco Adventures, and the Literacy Program. All of these options aim at helping students contribute to the betterment of WSU and Palouse community.
For some of our students, an important part of being in college is looking for ways to offset the cost of tuition, room, and board. We can encourage our students to utilize Handshake to find job opportunities on campus. Even though these are more structured experiences, community is easily created at on-campus jobs. I remember fondly stocking shelves in an on-campus convenience store during my last quarter as an undergraduate with other students who became close friends!
Some of the students we will meet this year will connect to many of these opportunities and invest all of their time into them. We must also be aware of those who overly commit to their passion areas in order to support them in their academics. We should encourage students to give up what they cannot handle and ensure that they stay in communication with their academic advisor. =
In sum, WSU offers hundreds of options for students to get involved and connect to the Cougar community. It is our opportunity to help them connect with options that they never had imagined experiencing, which I hope keeps the job as exhilarating for you as it does for me.
Berger, J. B. (1997). Students’ sense of community in residence halls, social integration, and first-year persistence. Journal of College Student Development, 38(5), 441-452.
Braxton, J.M., Hirschy, A.S., & McClendon, S.A., (2004). Understanding and reducing college student departure. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Patton, L. (2011). Promoting critical conversations about identity centers. In P.M. Magolda & M.B. Baxter Magolda (Eds.), Contested issues in student affairs (255-260). Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Renn, K. Identity centers: An idea whose time has come…and gone? In P.M. Magolda & M.B. Baxter Magolda (Eds.), Contested issues in student affairs (244-254). Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Tinto, V. (2006). Research and practice of student retention: What next? Journal of College Student Retention, 8(1), 1-19.