When I handwrote this in my notebook the other week, I was a week behind on my goal of writing about interesting activities or interactions in my work every week. Now that I am typing and sharing this, I am over two weeks behind!
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind – right after the Welcome Week I coordinate in the first week, I launched into a week packed full of meetings.
Most of these meetings were delayed conversations scheduled before or during the first week of term. Some of them were directly related to upcoming tasks, some a bit more focused on professional development.
Righ out of those meetings, I went straight into my big event on Thursday of the 2nd week — the Community Mixer.
This event has clearly had a growing impact on the development of a more open and welcoming community atmosphere in our department. The first time we hosted this event, we spent a large amount of money and struggled with trying to get even just 50 or 75 students to stick around — we also struggled with creating reliable data around attendance.
After the first few iterations of this event, we started inviting our student organizations to come table at this event. We had been spreading out their engagement and involvement in efforts in a way that seemed maybe a bit draining. Focusing them on this event was strategic – it provided the student organizations with a chance to work on growing their numbers and gave us a chance to advertise an event focused on engagement and involvement, which allows community development to follow.
We also ask the students from these student orgs to take a stack of fliers and share them with friends or in classes – this has pivoted the event from something students pass by and happen to attend to an event that students plan to attend. This was particularly helpful during the time when our building was under construction.
As we’ve been in our current building space for two years now, I am able to start building our traditions and expectations. We have seen attendance at this event grow up to 327, we have built more reliable methods of tracking attendance and we are working on continuing to grow the event.
This occurrence of the event was one of the smoothest we have had yet – nothing huge went sideways – there are some layout issues that need to be reorganized, but with the most collaboration we have ever had — 14 student groups, three physical spaces, and several of our professional centers all had tables, as well as offices outside our department with great opportunities for our students — we had the most successful School of Business Community Mixer yet! Most of it is due to the incredible colleagues and collaborators I work with on this event.
The work of building community is, to me, one of the most important parts of the work for student success and retention. Feeling both welcomed and a sense of belonging is a key indicator of how likely someone is to stay in that space – from where I stand, this event is a cornerstone in the process of building an open, welcoming space where anything can happen.