Mentorship and Connection

This semester as I am a part of the Connected Courses series at the international level as well as our group at Virginia Tech, best practices and transformative education has been on my mind even more. Additionally, I frequently read Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle. Today on Inside Higher Ed this was posted, which then led to this and this. I am sure I saw the studies findings when they were first published last spring but it did not really resonate with me until today. This is due in part to the conversation we had this week within our group at Tech.

These articles and findings discuss what is important for students to be engaged in the workplace post-graduation. What Gallup found was that students who had support and experiential learning had the most engagement in the workplace. Support can be shown through having a professor who made them excited about learning; professors caring about the student as a person; and a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. Experiential was shown by working on a project that took a semester or more to complete; an internship or job that allowed students to apply what they were learning; and being extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations while attending the college. Looking back, I believe I had all six experiences, which I am eternally grateful for.

We had been discussing projects for students and how the most beneficial ones may not be the short-term projects that we frequently see and assign in classes. How might undergraduate research or undergraduate theses actually benefit students in the long-term?

Then again, when we have 80-500 students in a class at a time, how do we show that we care about each student individually? Especially when they do not seek us out? This is something as someone fairly new to teaching is still grappling with.

Overall, how do we work towards being able to provide these sorts of transformative educational experiences for all students, not just the 3% that said they had all six experiences during their undergraduate career that led to support and experiential and deep learning?

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