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Beyond helping students adjust, though, is the concept of making meaning for their experience on campus.
Schlossberg (1989) posits that during times of transition there are increased experiences and feelings of anxiety. In the time of new students transitioning to UW-Superior, or transfer students adjusting to their new university, or international students adjusting to American lifestyles, Schlossberg states that the success of a transition is weighed by feelings of mattering versus marginality. Both experiences have cues, feelings, and actions that can be observable by faculty, student, and staff.
Mattering, as the theory supports, is the notion that someone matters to others at the university, both students and staff alike. The feeling of being valued by others, such as classmates or other residents in the halls, helps students feel as though they are part of the fabric of UW-Superior.
Mattering: Cues, feelings, and actions
When a student feels as though they matter to UW-Superior, they feel that they individually are important to the institution. The feeling cared about on multiple levels leads to feelings of positive attention, connection, and personal worth in their academic endeavors. This creates a positive dependence on others, both that they are needed here but also that they need others in the community in order to be successful. The student who matters functions positively in their desire to perform at expectations set by others and themselves (Hunter, 2005).
Marginalization occurs when someone feels on the fringes of the university environment or that they don't fit in. Perhaps it is a mismatch of social mores and norms, or the academic experience or transition isn't flowing smoothly. This feeling of marginalization often leads to lower self-esteem and higher self-consciousness for performing.
Marginalization: Cues, feelings, actions
The opposite can be true for feelings of marginalization. When students don't feel that the expectations of the university match their achievement levels, feelings of self-worth drop and reclusion can occur. Students start questioning their connection and value to others, and feelings of extreme independence lead to questioning of retention to the university. Students don't feel as though they are noticed, cared about, worthy of attention, or important to individuals and community (Hunter & Gahagan, 2003)
As faculty and staff, it is imperative to the success of UW-Superior and the retention of our students that we take an honest look at mattering versus marginality. Transitions take all forms, but the common experience among new students is the figuring out if this place is for them.
Steps you can take
There are several steps you can take to help assess how students transition and experience is going thus far in their semester at UW-Superior:
Hunter, M.S. (2005) Knowing what to expect: Student development and the first-year experience. Program presented at the meeting of the Georgia College Personnel Association.
Hunter, M. & Gahagan, J. (2003). It takes a year. About Campus, 31-32.Schlossberg, N. K. (1989), Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building community. New Directions for Student Services, 1989: 5-15.
Watch for the Campus Life Spotlight each Tuesday online and in the Staff Digest.
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