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New Engagement and Belonging Task Force

Student Affairs is dedicated to cultivating an inclusive environment where every student feels a genuine sense of belonging—empowering them to actively engage in their community, develop leadership skills and fully immerse themselves in the authentic college experience. As a first step toward this goal, Student Affairs created the “Engagement and Belonging Task Force” to reimagine social programming, foster collaborative relationships, implement streamlined processes and address current challenges.

“We know from research that students who are involved on campus have higher rates of retention and are more likely to persist to graduation,” said Erica Andersen. “They’re also more likely to develop skills essential for success beyond academic learning.”

While the impact of student-focused events is evident, the staggering number of events happening on campus on any given day can be overwhelming for students when deciding which ones to attend. As a solution, the task force will develop “Pillar Events,” designed to become a cornerstone of the student experience, with a particular focus on accessibility and inclusion, social connection, campus traditions and promoting collaboration across Student Affairs.

The intention of pillar events is not necessarily to introduce additional events (although new events could certainly be considered) but rather to take a closer look at what Student Affairs is already offering and then consider ways to improve coordination and collaboration. One example is to eventually involve representation from multiple Student Affairs offices at each event, ensuring attendees can connect with various offices and gain exposure to new resources.

The task force is also working to develop best practices for organizing student engagement events. This includes rethinking event planning processes, establishing safety considerations and risk management procedures, and identifying new and more effective ways to reach target audiences. Additionally, the task force plans to implement calendar coordination to assist Student Affairs departments in proactive planning and communication. This project aims to minimize event overlap and competition, ultimately making it easier for students to navigate and participate in various social opportunities.

With these efforts underway, it’s essential to analyze and measure the impact to assess effectiveness. To achieve this, Student Affairs is implementing card reader technology, allowing students to easily tap their UCard when attending events or involvement opportunities. By simplifying the check-in process and tracking attendance, we can analyze demographics to understand who is (and who isn’t) attending our events and gain insights into the impact of events through pulse and summative assessments.

The card reader system not only helps Student Affairs analyze the impact of involvement opportunities but may also support students in being more intentional in their involvement journey. The task force is looking at the option for students to create an “involvement record” which would automatically update each time a student taps their UCard to attend an event or involvement opportunity. This record could support students as they reflect on their college experiences and as they prepare resumes and cover letters, allowing them to highlight their co-curricular involvement.

While the task force is currently focused on uniting efforts between Student Affairs departments, plans to expand to other campus partners are on the horizon.

Task force members include:

  • Erica Andersen, associate dean for Student Engagement and Leadership
  • Branden Dalley, director for the Union
  • Sierra Canela, director for Student Governance and Leadership
  • Shigeo Iwamiya, director for Residential Education
  • Brittany Badger, director for the Center for Campus Wellness
  • Kirsten Maanum, director for the Women’s Resource Center

Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Jason Ramirez and Associate Vice President for Housing and Residential Education Sean Grube serve in advisory roles.