The Power of Student Voices

As educators, we’re often put in the position of making decisions for students.

Administrators continue to recognize the importance of partnering with students on campus-wide decisions and allocating space for students to share their voices and stories.

Student input, insight, and experiences are immensely valuable to creating an engaging campus community. It helps them feel more connected with their peers and to the institution, which of course, helps them persist and succeed during their time as a student.

Amplifying student voices can look differently depending on the functional area or what would work best for your campus. Examples include student-run blogs, student social media takeovers of institutional accounts, student-run podcast series, students involved in higher level decision-making, and increasing transparency for student workers. When the mindset of partnering with students is put into action, institutions look and feel like an open place where both students and staff are comfortable with feedback and creating a resilient campus where students feel it’s okay to make mistakes.

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Students need the time and space to learn and grow; the benefits both parties receive from forming strong relationships are priceless. Here we provide you with top strategies on how to partner with students and give them experience that will encourage them to become independent as they prepare for the transition into a career post-graduation.

Spread the Word to Your Students Better

Students use many tools to communicate with their peers – Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram – and may help gain popularity on different mediums for a variety of reasons. Students feel that communication coming from their peers is more genuine because they tend to speak the same language. As professionals, we may be far removed from the lives, experiences, and slang our students choose to use.

For example, the University of North Carolina Housing Twitter account has student who tweets almost daily from the account, interacting with students and providing comical relief:

Students know the best venues and tools to use to connect with each other that will specifically perform well on your respective campuses. Some spaces may be on a huge bulletin board or television in the hallway or students may be interacting more frequently on platforms like Reddit or Tumblr. Bringing students to the table when you’re making decisions about marketing and outreach can maximize your potential in many ways.

Know What Matters to Your Students

Providing platforms for and listening to student voices will help administrators learn valuable information to gain student “pulse” on campus. Collecting direct, unfiltered feedback and input about program offerings helps to continuously improve relationships with students over time.

Using tools such as polls on students’ smartphones, metrics from campus programming efforts, and making time for focus groups can all help professionals understand what matters to students. Asking for feedback goes a long way to show students how a department is dedicated to student engagement. As much as we focus on educating our students, there is value is providing opportunities for our students to teach us. For example, professionals can work to empower students to utilize assessment practices and teach their fellow students about the importance of it.

Share Student Voices and Stories

In addition to helping professionals accomplish involvement goals better and reaching more students, sharing student voices and stories publicly can have a profound impact on the campus community.

For example, institutions with a high first-generation student college population may find it helpful to share student stories to help validate their peers’ feelings. If a student is experiencing homesickness or far from their support network, it may help to reduce feelings of isolation. Storytelling is powerful in helping other students feel less stigmatized.

A student affairs professional reminds us that first-gen experiences vary for students,

“First-generation status is an invisible identity. My experiences as a first-gen student and navigating that identity have made me more perceptive to the difficulties my students are facing. I understand that we don’t know everyone’s stories and that they could be going through a number of different things at any given time.”

Allowing for student groups to publicly share their voice and advocate for issues that matter to them help them feel validated and respected. Doing this also helps the student storytellers grow as they find their individual voice to develop as a leader.

When prospective students and community members see these initiatives and listen to stories, it bolsters a positive reputation as a campus that values its students and gives them a platform to express themselves. It can feel awkward (at first) as a professional granting more access to your students, but it’s important to explain the reason of why you’re deciding to hand over the reigns.

The return on this investment in these types of initiatives with students is immense; listening to them, respecting them, and adapting to their needs will create a campus community that better serves everyone. At the end of the day, students feel validated, respected, and their confidence develops further as they prepare to venture out into their post-college life and careers.

What type of student platforms do you utilize to share their stories?

Have you considered new social or in-person strategies to partner with students?

Share your thoughts with us @HelloPresence. We’d love to hear from you 😊

Cheers!

Don’t worry, we won’t share your email.
Dustin Ramsdell

About the author: Dustin is a graduate of the Rutgers University College Student Affairs Ed.M Program. He is a proud nerd and self-affirmed "Higher Ed Geek" who is excited to connect with folks who share his love of deep conversations! Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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