Hello Dr. Flowers and fellow classmates, this is my reflective journal for week one of EDHE 669. Overall, chapter one of Student Engagement in Higher Education does an excellent job introducing us to the importance of engaging diverse populations. Although some of the material covered in this chapter overlaps with other courses, I believe it was important to build a foundation of student engagement as we move forward in this course looking at specific constituencies. As I begin reflecting on this week’s lecture and learning materials, the one quote that really impacts me is from Harper and Quaye (2015), “…faculty and student affairs educators must be strategic and intentional about fostering conditions that compel students to make the most out of college, both inside and outside the classroom.” I am in agreement with the authors in that higher education’s function in engaging students must be genuine. As a student services professional, I am deeply passionate about supporting students, and I try to go above and beyond to support students who may be culturally or socially isolated, such as international students for example. To me, it’s an institutional partnership with student services focusing primarily on out-of-class engagement, and faculty engaging students in class. There is research and theories that show that students who are actively engaged both inside and outside of the class are more likely to persist through graduation. I have seen many examples of students who are involved in activities outside of the classroom that has led to increased confidence, social integration, and persistence. One of the major learnings from chapter one was the need to provide students numerous, sustained opportunities to participate in providing feedback for enriching their academic and social experiences. I have started to see this shift at my institution. Students are being provided the opportunity to express their opinions on what student success means to them, what types of services they would like, and what types of engagement activities they value. This has been a shift from an institutional driven approach to one of a student-centered approach. By taking a proactive approach, as chapter one mentions, student affairs educators can create an environment that would allow for students to thrive. In speaking to colleagues from other post-secondary institutions in the region, there are similar practices happening there. The one “buzzword” that is being mentioned now is “student success”. In fact, at our institution, the director of student services’ position was renamed to director of student success, and my temporary job title is “student success advisor”.
When we look at student success as a concept, very good questions were raised in Dr. Flowers’ lecture notes. Who indeed is ultimately responsible for student success? Student success was the basis for my capstone project last year, and the research I reviewed indicated that historically student success was the student’s responsibility, but that now has shifted to an institution’s responsibility. Student success is now a part of strategic plans, and as I mentioned, it is now a buzzword in higher education. The biggest challenge I find is determining success, another question raised in Dr. Flowers’ lecture notes. Student success could be defined by an institution as retention or graduation rates. Although both retention and graduation rates are measurable, do they really capture how a student feels about being successful? I believe that student success is individualistic, in that what one student deems to be successful may not be what another student deems to be successful. In this week’s live class, Dr. Flowers showed a graphic that showed individual factors in the inner circle, and environmental factors in the outer circle. This graphic was a key learning point for me this week. This graphic shows some of the environmental factors that play a role in how a student would define student success.
The final major learning point for me was the video interview of Marta Tienda from Princeton University titled Equity and Access to Higher Education. The point mentioned within this interview that had its greatest impact on myself was how the “Top 10 Percent Rule” focused on an institution’s decision to provide admission to a student, but Tienda questioned how about the students that did not apply? This is a great question that can help determine the success or failure of this policy. Are students graduating in the top ten percent of their schools where there is a high Latino and/or African American population applying to public schools? We are able to expand on non-race based admissions initiatives within this week’s discussion board which was strong learning activity for me. In Canada, this is one conversation that is non-existent in higher education. Many of Canada’s major centers where many of the post-secondary institutions are based out of have diverse multicultural populations. Our discussions with admissions are based on recruiting qualified applicants who have the academic, and with some programs non-academic background to persist to graduation. The closest example I can come up with is we do have reserved seats in a number of programs for International students. That is in part to guarantee international students for admission and better “internationalize” our campuses, as well as bring in additional revenue. I can see the importance of having a diverse population, and the impact it can make on students as institutions try to build global citizens. In conclusion, I am looking forward to this course and the learning activities over the next ten weeks. The background is a photo of the campus I am currently working at, BCIT’s Aerospace Campus.