On day two of our site visits in Kingston, the research team headed to St. Lawrence College to meet with students, staff, faculty, and senior administrators.
In our conversations with the various groups what stood out was the passion and desire to help students in their success. Even prior to the site visit, we heard from staff and faculty who noted that they were unable to attend the focus groups, but still wanted to participate in the study because supporting student success is such an important issue. Throughout our site visit, we heard staff, faculty, and administrators describe the unique and diverse needs of their students, and the ways that they use their informal networks to support those students.
While St. Lawrence is a smaller institution with three campuses in Kingston, Brockville and Cornwall, there appears to be no shortage of support and enthusiasm. We were fortunate to hear from a wide variety of student services staff, who described their daily interactions with students, and the ways they go above and beyond their call of duty to ensure students feel supported and are capable of completing their studies.
In addition to providing academic support, many of our participants talked about various ways in which they support students personally. One participant explained that it is often helping students get through the small personal matters or “mini roadblocks” that can make a huge difference in students succeeding. There is a unique group of individuals at St. Lawrence called the Student Success Facilitators, which provide academic support to students, act as a conduit to appropriate resources, and aid students with a range of issues—from academic to personal. They often act as the intermediary between the academic and student services side, which allow students to gain support without getting the runaround. Staff shared that collaboration and communication amongst each other was an essential component in supporting students. They described that they always had a colleague they could count on and that they were always “just a phone call away.” The group of staff we met with was clearly passionate about helping students succeed, it was a pleasure learning about the ways they collaborate and help each other in order to better serve students and help them succeed, both personally and academically.
Some of the faculty members we spoke to talked about the varying needs of their students, and how they often work with the Student Success Facilitators and other student services staff to provide support. The Peer Tutoring program offers free tutoring support for students, while employing other students as paid peer tutors. Students, faculty, and staff all highlighted the success of this program and the support it provides students. Students we spoke to acknowledged the importance of their peers in supporting them throughout the program.
As a community college, we heard about how St. Lawrence responds to its community and community needs, where new opportunities are created for students, such as the Wind Turbine Technician/Industrial Electrician Program. St. Lawrence is a dynamic institution, where renovations are providing new spaces for students across the three campuses of Brockville, Cornwall, and Kingston.
Renovating space and providing equitable services at three campuses is a challenge. In times of tight resources, it may not be feasible to have the same type of space or the same schedule of services at each campus. St. Lawrence College is using information about their service provision to best meet the learning support needs of its student body. One of the ways that it has done this is through a cross-functional, multi-campus task force which has identified the support services available and the areas within the College that provides them.
Thank you to all of those who participated in our focus groups and interviews. Your comments provided us with valuable insight about St. Lawrence College.