Bringing it all together – research, grad school and professional life

Last month, guest bloggers Gavin Taylor-Black and Melinda Scott reflected on their experiences as new graduate students who continue to work full time. Both blog entries made references to the integration of new ideas and new theoretical frameworks into their work life. Like Gavin and Melina, I also work full time while pursing graduate studies. Reading their blogs caused me to reflect on my own experience with not only school and work, but also being a member of the Supporting Student Success research team. Just how am I trying to synthesize the research, study and practice?

Having done extensive reading of current literature in student services for school, I have been able to engage my colleagues in excellent discussions about best practice and current research. Let me illustrate with just one example. At a managers meeting, we were talking about empowering staff and assisting those on the front line with feeling comfortable making decisions based on individual student situations  instead of relying on black and white policy. Mid-discussion, I recalled a book chapter from “Achieving Student Success” that I had read where Bonnie Neuman discusses how the role of front line Registrarial staff has moved from transactional to transformational.  I quickly summarized what I had learned and offered some suggestions for the team. Even better, my colleagues asked to read the book chapter so each of us could move forward with the same framework.

I am fortunate to work an institution that encourages faculty and staff to share their research interests with each other. Last spring, I was able to speak about the site visit report that the Supporting Student Success research team prepared for Fanshawe College at our monthly Vice President Speaker Series. This was a perfect opportunity to share the emerging themes of the research, but more importantly, it allowed the staff, faculty and students to come together as a community and talk about larger issues. The input and dialogue of several members of our Student’s Union in attendance at the session provided some new perspectives for senior administrators who were also present.

Being part of the Supporting Student Success research team has informed not only how I do my work on a personal level, it has impacted the type of information my institution has available for evidenced-based decision making. As part of a rebranding strategy at my institution, we have a team researching the perceptions faculty, staff, students and community members have about the college. At the conclusion of a focus group I attended, I suggested the facilitator seek out the Supporting Student Success site visit report. The report illustrated different ways those same stakeholders perceive the institution supports students. The private firm conducting the focus group has the potential to integrate academic research into their findings for the school’s rebranding.

These are a few examples of how the Supporting Student Success research has contributed to deeper conversation and decision-making at one institution. We’d like to hear from you.  If you are at one of the 14 institutions that has participated in the Supporting Student Success study, how has your institution used the site visit report and the findings from the study? How can this research (and all research related to high education) continue to live on our campuses? Have the reports influenced what is done on campus? Let us know with a comment here, or on Twitter, @CdnStdntSuccess, or on our Facebook page.

 ~ Krista Vogt

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