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Build Connections, Build Success

Most students ar ive at college expecting to succeed and believing that they are motivated to do so. oo often, though, there is an evident difference between being motivated and being prepared to succeed. Still, community college students often come to recogn ze one factor that plays a pivotal role in their success: connections.

Ente ing students predict they will stay in college and achieve their academic goals because of their own resolve. They expect to succeed because of “my own determination,” or so “my children will have a better life.” But most continuing students indicate that, at some point, they considered dropping out, and their reasons for staying in school are revealing: They almost always include the name of a particular pe son — an instructo , a staff membe , another student — who gave the encouragement, guidance, or support they needed to keep going.

Pe sonal connections are the unanticipated success factor — a c itical va iable that improves the odds of pe sistence. But students’ typical patterns of college attendance, including part-time enrollment and juggling classes with work and family commitments, create challenges. Establishing pe sonal connections may not happen easily, much less automatically. This discrepancy raises an important question for colleges and their approach to engaging students: Since strong pe sonal connections are key to keeping more students in college, how can institutions foster stronger and more dive se connections with (and among) students?

  • is year, the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) focuses

on the importance of relationships among students, faculty, and sta, and with the institutions themselves: how these connections evolve, the value they add, and the importance of devoting greater eort to nurturing them.

In this evaluation of connections, it is important to distinguish between communicating information and connecting. Communicating information is a one-way, self-contained event. e individual for whom the information is intended may or may not receive it, understand it, care about it, or act on it. Connecting is an interactive, iterative series of events that is personal and creates a sense of presence. No one ever asks “so what?” in the wake of a genuine connection.

The Connected College

Connected colleges eectively connect with their students and encourage them to build the relationships — with faculty, sta, other students — that are essential to student success. Connected colleges are easily identied by their campus cultures.

  • eir language and actions communicate the belief that all students can succeed

and demonstrate that everyone on campus is committed to facilitating that success. Moreover, a college’s commitment to building connections is:

Evident across campus groups, including administrators, faculty, sta, and students.

For more information about CCSSE and the 2009 surve , visit www.ccsse.org.

“One of the things that was unexpected that worked for me … everyone in my college success cou se real y coalesced, they real y networked. I still see those people. We talk and we re all chummy. It s like this ground floor. … It kind of keeps you in the community.”

  • Male student

“Students have come back to me and said, ‘This pe son cared.’ The sense that whoever they re working with actual y cares about their welfare has an impact on their success.”

  • Staff member

2009 Findings


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