Student Engagement is Central to the Student Experience

Student Engagement

Students involved on Kent State’s campus attend a regional conference for residence hall leaders.

Visualizing the experience.

Think about it the worst class you have ever taken at your college or university. You are sitting there, wondering why you even showed up to begin with. You cannot decide if you will ever need the information being shared by your professor, and you’d argue that you probably will not ever need it. Yet, you went to class today.

Now, think about your favorite class. You arrive early. You pay attention. You take copious notes. You laugh at the professors jokes and do not wait to do the homework. Have you ever thought of why?

Now think about a student group you may have been or are involved in. Did you like the meetings? Did you show up on time? Did you take on a leadership position? Or did you stop coming? That is also a form of engagement on campus.

When it comes to our experiences in higher education, engagement is central to that success. Student engagement is another one of those nebulous terms that we seek to understand, yet only truly do when we experience it. It is more than understanding the material. It is a knowledge that you feel like you belong on your campus and you are part of the experience.

Keeping our attention.

Things that keep our attention are:

  • Interesting
  • Unique
  • Funny
  • Thought-provoking
  • Challenging
  • Beneficial
  • Exciting
  • Valuable

Things that do not keep our attention are:

  • Boring
  • Not valuable
  • Predictable
  • Common
  • Sleep-provoking

Why is it that some classes keep our attention? Why is it that some organizations on campus are more meaningful to us than others? Why does it all matter?

Understanding why.

When you think of what you remember most about your college experience, it is probably not the homework assignments. Unless there is one you are proud of our embarrassed by. Your fondest memories are the experiences you have had and the people you met. Meeting people and having experiences is part  of student engagement.

When we define engagement in relation to students, it is more than paying attention in class. It is getting to your meetings for organizations that fuel your passions. It is building your professional network to help you understand why you started to do what you wanted to do. It is the night you decided that pizza and Walmart in the early morning was much more important than sleep. These things keep you coming back as a student. They help you remain a focused and engaged alumni.

Coming full-circle.

Students who are more engaged and aware on their campus are more likely to understand the inner workings and better recognize the different administrators. Those who have had positive experiences where they have felt engaged and like their experiences matter make better alumni, have better perspectives and may be potential third-party recruiters.

Personally, I would not have had as great of an experience if I had not felt engaged. It gave me a reason to keep doing what I was doing. Without that reason, my experience may not have been positive. I may not have gotten involved and began to meet the administrators who made decisions that impact me on my campus. Now, I am not advocating that every student gets involved and that will lead to immediate success, but I am saying that the students who are aware of their campus, feel like they matter, enjoy their classes and have a connection to the campus make better advocates for having a perception of their university president, positive or negative, and educate others to do the same.

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