The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Increasing student engagement a concern on campus

In a recent interview with the Torch,
University President Rev. Donald
Harrington expressed his concerns over
student engagement.

“During the whole transition from a
commuter to a resident school, we slipped
in student engagement,” he said.

“From what I can see, I think there are
a number of different factors that could
be at play,” Rev. Harrington continued.

“One of those factors is the question of
whether or not we adequately address the
great variety of interest and needs of our
students.”

Harrington also said one of his main
concerns is making sure commuter
students still play an active role in campus life, even though the University has made strides to become a more residential
school in recent years.

When asked whether the University
leaned towards being more of a resident
or commuter school, Rev. James Maher,
vice president of Student Affairs, said he
felt St. John’s was still “developing an
identity.”

“I think the change has been pretty
signifi cant in terms of where students are
coming from,” he said. “I think one of our
challenges going forward is really helping
students to build that identity.”

Maher also said another challenge regarding student engagement is effectively using social networking tools to keep up with the students and the ever- changing technological trends.

Recently, the University has taken
steps to increase student engagement.

Maher said he felt that one of the
most successful ways St. John’s has done
this is by offering incentives for students
to attend University events, such as
basketball games.

“What pleases us the most about
programs like that is that we were able
to collaborate with Student Activities,
with Athletics and with Residence Life,”
he said. “Together we were able to reach
students that might not have thought to go
to a basketball game.”

However, not all administrators share
the same ideologies on how to effectively
engage students.

“I know there currently is a big
push to get students more involved by giving lots of things away but I don’t
think that should be the answer,” said
Charisse Willis, associate dean for the
School of Education. “We shouldn’t have
to encourage a culture where students
are expecting rewards to support the
University.

“We are a Vincentian university and I
think we need to get back to the focus of
the mission of St. John’s and try to think
of different ways to engage students.”

An upcoming event Willis has helped
plan to increase interaction among
members of the St. John’s community
is College Challenge, a seven-day series
of friendly competitions starting on
April 14 and consisting of St. John’s
students, faculty, staff and administrators
competing in teams based on the five
colleges within the University.

Some of the competitions include a
scavenger hunt, Nintendo Wii game night
and obstacle course.

“We’ve been talking about doing
something like this for a while and I think
this would be a great opportunity for
our students and faculty to get involved,
showcase their talents and have fun,”
Willis said.

Although the goal of the challenge
is to build student engagement, Willis
emphasized that it is also important to get
faculty members involved as well.

“It’s extremely important to build
interaction between students and faculty
members,” she said. “Students love to see
their professors outside of an academic
setting and professors also enjoy seeing
students outside of the classroom. And
by engaging in these activities together,
it will only bring us all closer together as a university.”

Both candidates for president in this
year’s SGI elections acknowledged a lack
of student engagement as one of the major
problems plaguing the student body.

“I feel one of the biggest concerns
among the student body is student engagement and getting more people
involved in activities on campus,” said
junior Patrick McBurney, presidential
candidate for the P.R.I.D.E ticket. “I think it’s all about trying to break students out of their comfort zone and providing them with services that will get them more involved in the college experience.”

One of these services that McBurney
has in mind is called Organization of the
Month, an incentive which would reward
student groups based on their amount of
participation on campus.

VISION candidate Chenele Francis
said she felt the biggest issue with student engagement is “complacency.”

“If you engage students from their
freshman year, and give them something
to do, even the smallest position, that will get them involved and make them feel
more part of the University community,”
she said.

“This will lead to them staying involved in the future and possibly bringing more people in to help be more involved.”

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