This summer I have been working with Dean of Students Lori Berquam along with folks from the around the university to “develop and deliver recommendations on how UW-Madison, the Wisconsin Alumni Association, and the UW Foundation can enhance and transform the affinity UW-Madison students have for the University.” Basically what this means is, how can the university support or offer ways to make students at UW Madison become more engaged on campus and feel more a part of the university.
I’ve come to realize that there is a large spectrum of engagement on campus ranging from not involved at all to highly involved in campus affairs. First I’d like to point out that I feel it’s a good thing a spectrum exists, a campus full of non involved students would be detrimental to the institution, and at the same time, this university does not have to capacity to accommodate a campus full of highly involved students. In any event the goal of this committee is again, to create recommendations to Chancellor Martin on that will instill students with a sense of value for their university. In order to do this our committee has come up with a basic formula for achieving stronger student engagement:
Connection + Ownership = Engagement
Having a connection to the university is step number one in the formula. A connection is “the spark”. A resource, a voice, a person, a word, it’s a tangible connection to the institution and its legacy. Furthermore, deep connections shape ownership. Ownership I see as “the opportunity”. It’s the emotion, feeling, and/or philosophical understanding of the institution and its legacy. Students who see opportunity in the resources available on campus will create ownership of what they are a part of and also the university on the whole. The combination of both connection and ownership creates engagement which is “the action”. It’s giving back either in time, financial support, ect.
A roadblock I along with the rest of the committee has come across is:
How/Where do we create ownership?
All students have a connection or “spark” to the university. They chose to attend here for one reason or another and they interact daily with the many different resources on campus. The question however still exists how do we create an environment where students understand those resources available are specific to an education at UW-Madison? (a.k.a. Ownership)
Again it is important to remember the spectrum of engagement. A highly engaged student will have a high level of ownership for their university and will take a personal responsibility to set policy, exact change, etc. (Probably where most of the people reading this stand) Whereas ownership for a non-involved student may be successfully or unsuccessfully meeting the requirements of academic coursework for personal success. Overall, through ownership students will understand the importance of activities around campus.
So this is where I need your help:
Where do we create ownership? How might we create ownership? Inspire ownership? Are there units/programs on campus already doing “Ownership”? What are our peers doing to inspire ownership?
Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, questions, or whatever would be largely appreciated. I’ll be taking any and all comments posted below with me to my next committee meeting to share them with the other group members.