What is “engagement?” Our college is focusing a lot on this topic and you hear the word used in many contexts. It could mean student interest and curiosity; as in, we want students to be engaged in their coursework. It could mean a level of commitment or devotion, as in, we want students to be engaged with the college and all the activities we have going on. It could mean inter-personal relationships, such as, we want faculty to engage with students and students to engage with faculty.
I like the last one, inter-personal relations. This is the defining characteristic of the “brick and mortar” college experience; the opportunity to work, play, park, eat and go to class with other physical beings. To learn from them. To teach them. To argue and debate. To dissect and analyze. To build and create. To find out your true feelings on “teamwork,” “collaboration,” and “mutual support.” To finally figure out that it doesn’t matter what you think about working with other people, just that you can!
Let’s say there are two students, Student A and Student M. Student A has an excellent academic record. A’s in all of her classes. Classes that she never misses. Student A organizes, studies, prepares, and succeeds. She also works a part-time job unrelated to her major or career goal. Student M is a non-traditional student. She works a full time job and sees her degree as necessary to make the next step in her career. She has practical expertise from years of experience. She’s also out of her comfort zone, returning to school after over a decade of work.
Student A needs a connection to her chosen career field. Student M has experience that she’s willing to share. Student M needs help balancing her obligations at work with her assignments at school. Student A has figured out the college’s “lay of the land.” Student A needs an internship. Student M needs an intern. Student A has enthusiasm and intellect. Student M has experience and wisdom.
On their own, Student A and Student M have the potential to do ok. Together, Student A and Student M have the potential to make awesome stuff happen. They just needed to meet each other.
Y’all help me figure out how to make this happen 4000 times a semester…