Although our research team visited Mohawk College in July 2010 for our first round of data collection, on our most recent visit, we roamed the halls with a sense that we had never been there before. There were structural changes that made the College both brighter and more friendly, and we were amazed at how much the physical space had changed in such a short period of time. Whether in the Cumming Library and Collaboratory or in recently renovated spaces, everywhere we looked, we saw groups of students gathered, taking advantage of workstations, help desk assistance, computers and outlets that were accessible and available. In the words of one participant, these spaces were designed to be “sticky” with the goal of students feeling like they wanted to stick around and be on campus to study and socialize.
In the focus groups and interviews that we conducted, we sensed that Mohawk College staff and faculty were committed to being student-centered. Great efforts had been made to value and encourage student success. One of the new initiatives was the development of The Square—a one-stop shop for students to receive academic, financial, personal support and services. This new development on campus not only encourages collaboration among student services departments, but also assists students in avoiding the run-around they often complain about when trying to locate services. Where there used to be 17 different student service locations, The Square combines many of these services into one central area where students can have all of their needs met. Across the hall is the Office of Student Engagement and Employment, which further increases visibility of these opportunities for students.
There was a true sense of advocacy at Mohawk—where change could be achieved with the coordination and support from individuals across the institution. We heard about communication between all levels of student services, from management to staff and a true sense of teamwork with a strong sense of support. Whenever there are student events, these groups come together as one to provide the necessary supports for students. Students, who raved about their experiences at Mohawk College, echoed this sentiment. Whenever they experienced a need, support was close at hand. From instructors to student services staff, students knew there were accessible sources of support that would provide valuable advice and assistance. We heard stories about faculty and staff going above and beyond the call of duty to help students achieve their personal and academic goals.
One focus group participant vividly represented how Mohawk organizes to support student success. In the drawing, central college administration was the trunk of the tree and connected the College to its roots. Student services were the branches of the tree that provided support to the students who were represented as the leaves. The faculty were the sunlight and rain that nourished the leaves to grow and flourish. It was a powerful picture portraying Mohawk’s organization and culture with respect to supporting student success.
Thank you to all of those who participated in our research study, your insights were invaluable in helping us understand how Mohawk supports student success.