When did this turn into “Students First” with quotes? Who decided that when we make decisions on the students’ behalf, we let the data guide what we do?
Do the students feel what we are doing is for them? Do they feel that they come first? Or, are we so busy trying to get them out the door in 4 years or 2 years (transfer students), they feel more like a piece of dry cleaning?
Yes, I know we have goals that we must make: enrollment, retention, persistence, graduation rates, strategic plan, external funding etc.… but we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, while we are focused on achieving our many markers of what we deem as success, how we can make our students feel that they come first. This has to go beyond just orientation and weeks of welcome, speaker series, concerts, games etc.
Does each division, department, and program have a strategic plan to make sure that students feel they come first? Do the services they receive, the messaging, the décor of the space, the interactions, and the ongoing programs meet their individual needs? Or are we just going to say the buzz words “students first”, “student centered”, “students matter” while taking the same old actions?
I recently did an informal survey and asked 50 students from various institutions to define “students first.” For the majority of them it’s simple: to feel that they matter for the entire time they are enrolled. Not just when the institution is trying to woo them and convince them that they are best institution during a tour or orientation. We get students in the door… we get their tuition money, and so the job is complete and we don’t have to work for them anymore? That bait and switch tactic leaves a majority of students feeling left out in the cold.
Here are my two cents: It takes only a few minutes to make students feel like they matter and an even shorter amount of time to make them feel like they don’t.
A few months ago a student found his way to my office after visiting five other offices where no one could answer his question. Well, I wasn’t the right office, but the student deserved better than being passed from one office to another so I picked up the phone and found the right person who had that answer. My colleague then came to my office to meet with the student. That student’s experience went from not feeling like he mattered to making him feel like his needs were a priority.
We need to do our best so students can do their best.
Debra Y. Griffith
Dean of Student Equity and Success at West Valley Community College
Consultant | Speaker | Coach |Strategist |Trainer