Building a neighborhood of support
MSU’s residence hall system is one of the largest in the country, hosting 16,000 students. About 10 years ago, MSU developed what it calls the Neighborhoods model, which is MSU’s signature approach to student success, grouping campus residence halls into “neighborhoods.” Each is home to a Neighborhood Engagement Center where all the things students need to be successful can be found under one roof, from physical and mental health resources, academic and advising support, and the ability to connect to a community.
The model has gained notice for its success and was instrumental in MSU joining the University Innovation Alliance, a national coalition of public research universities committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates.
“Every year when we have families coming to campus, I tell parents if they only remember one thing, remember there are Neighborhood Engagement Centers in all five of MSU’s Neighborhoods and to learn which one serves their student,” says Genyne Royal, assistant dean for student success initiatives and director of the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative.
This year, Royal and the Neighborhoods staff are focused on rebuilding resources after the pandemic shifted the university to mostly remote education and bringing back and building up in-person support. A lot of that support comes in the form of an expansion of university advising by 30%. In addition to bringing on more advisers in the coming year, the kind of advising being done is also transforming.
“We want to go to students and say, ‘It looks like you’re having difficulty with this,’ or ‘How can I help you do that?’ Or offer help even when it’s not being asked for and there’s no indication of a problem,” says Largent. “Students really respond to that kind of individualized outreach.”
In addition to proactive advising, MSU is ramping up the Spartan Experience Record, which tracks and verifies student learning in non-credit-bearing experiences. MSU is the only institution in the Big Ten that has developed a co-curricular record and one of a handful in the nation. The goal is to track learning wherever it occurs to capture the full picture of a student’s experience at college. All activities that get logged must be approved by faculty or staff to ensure a learning component is represented, and the final record is available for students from the registrar’s office alongside their official transcript.
“We want to track learning wherever it occurs on campus,” says Sarah Schultz, director of the Spartan Experience Record. “To date, we have had over 8,000 students with at least one experience on their Spartan Experience Record, and we are growing daily. We really want to empower students to be able to utilize their record to prepare for interviews, help shape a résumé and secure internships and jobs.”
Experiences span more than two dozen colleges and divisions and include undergraduate research, education abroad, on-campus employment, service in the community, leadership opportunities in Greek life and student organizations as well as resident adviser roles in MSU’s residence halls.
MSU’s Career Services Network also plays a significant role early on in students’ academic journeys, with career services professionals located in college-based and centralized career centers across campus. Dozens of career events, including virtual and in-person career fairs, help students explore fields and connect with alumni and employers. Students can also find internship opportunities and take advantage of on-campus employment. About 76% of undergraduate students complete an internship while at MSU.
“More and more students come in with multiple identities, so having all of those groups together at Spartan Remix, students find they can honor all of those identities and also find groups that will support them on their journey,” says Gore.
“It definitely shaped who I am as a person and also why I do the work here. I’m able to support the next generation of students coming in and help them feel like they have a place on this campus,” says Lin.
For Ermelinda Pedro, a junior from Grand Rapids majoring in criminal justice with a minor in environment and health, OCAT was the place where she met her first friends at MSU and joined several student groups.
“My first year was all online. As a sophomore on campus, I felt lost and didn’t know anyone at first. When I finally went to an OCAT Friday event, I felt so welcomed. I started going every Friday and it really is my home away from home.”
This content was originally published here.
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