Fostering a sense of belonging in community college: a faculty initiative to increase support

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Laura Sherrill Wilson Baylor (Creator)
Maureen Dattilo Lambert (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Brandi Hinnant-Crawford

Abstract: College retention is a primary focus within many institutions of higher education; however, retention efforts have largely been unsuccessful in impacting first-year completion rates and eventual degree attainment. Drawing on research that demonstrates the value of a strong faculty student relationship and an engaging classroom environment, this initiative investigates the potential impact faculty have on first-year student success at two local institutions: a community college and a four-year proprietary institution. Utilizing a scholar-practitioner lens and improvement science methodology to complete a Plan, Do, Study Act (PDSA) cycle, we evaluated the efficacy of an initiative that included professional development for faculty, individual Get to Know You (GTKY) meetings between faculty and students, and strategies for class engagement. The work was carried out during the fall of 2020 as instructors and students dealt with the challenges of COVID-19. The professional development, covering equity, sense of belonging, and the importance of student and faculty relationships, was well received. Overall, faculty and students found value in the GTKY meetings, and there was a weak but positive correlation between GTKY meetings and engagement. These strategies are promising and demonstrate value in a second PDSA cycle with more participants. Recommendations for a second cycle include implementing a shorter study timeline, adding specific engagement activities, and including focus groups. Partnering between different institutions of higher education, utilizing the scholar-practitioner model, and conducting the initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic offered a unique perspective on the improvement science process.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Belonging (Social psychology) -- Community colleges
Community colleges -- Faculty
College dropouts -- Prevention

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