Campus Life Spotlight: Making a Difference for Students

Posted on Oct 20, 2011

Faculty and staff can have a tremendous impact on the students that they interact with on a regular basis.

Without knowing it, most will provide some sort of support to a student that they see in or out of class and will make an impact on that student's college experience. A study focused on the impact that faculty and staff have on students in college. The resulting findings are published in the Journal of Higher Education titled "The Impact of Faculty and Staff on High Risk College Student Persistence". This research addresses the ideas of faculty and staff establishing a personal relationship with students.

The article focuses on what are considered to be high risk students, defined as "students who are the first in their family to attend postsecondary education or students with low socioeconomic status"(Schreiner, Noel, Anderson, and Cantwell, 2011). The lessons that are learned from this research, while focusing on community colleges, can be applied to most students in higher education that we interact with. The findings support what the researchers have developed into seven different themes in college personnel behaviors and attitudes outlined below:

  • a desire to connect with students,
  • being unaware of their influence on students at critical junctures,
  • wanting to make a difference in students' lives,
  • possessing a wide variety of personality styles and strengths but being perceived by students as genuine and authentic,
  • being intentional about connecting personally with students,
  • different approaches utilized by faculty compared to staff,
  • differences in the types of behaviors that community college students reported as fostering their success. (Schreiner, et. al., 2011)

It is important for students to make a personal connection to the university, not matter who that person may be. An article by George Kuh illustrates the importance of connecting with students as "the classroom is the only venue where they regularly have face-to-face contact with faculty or staff members and other students, learn how the institution works, and absorb the campus culture." (2007)

This is a great reminder that no matter what position we hold at the university we can impact the students we work with in a positive way. It may be more work and require a conscious effort, but the benefits for the student and the staff or faculty member will far outweigh that work. Remember the reason we are here-for the students!

Schreiner, L., Noel, P., Andersen, E., Cantwell, L. (2011). The Impact of Faculty and Staff on High Risk College Student Persistence, Journal of Higher Education, 52(3)

Kuh, George (2007) How to help students achieve, Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(41), b12

Watch for the Campus Life Spotlight each week online and in the staff digest.

News Contact: Campus Life |