Throughout the winter 2012 semester, The Current will feature student activities and student involvement at NSU. For the first installment of the series, Brad Williams, Ph.D., vice president of Student Affairs, was excited to sit and talk about the state of student affairs and student services at NSU.
Q1: What programs and services will the Division of Student Affairs undertake to increase student involvement at NSU?
A: Among our priorities during the course of the next academic school year is to increase both the quality and quantity of student entertainment activities on campus. In particular, we are hoping to facilitate more large-scale entertainment activities, similar to the recent on-campus comedy show featuring Kevin Hart. Students should be really excited, as we are currently working on bringing popular acts to perform on campus. In addition to entertainment, it is always priority to increase the quality and quantity of the resources available to the over 241 clubs and organizations on campus and to find ways to increase the overall number of clubs and organizations on campus. This is especially important because of the role that clubs and organizations play in the overall student experience.
Q2: Does the university have a plan of action to inform students of the resources available to NSU students? If so, give a general overview of this plan.
A: We do, in fact, have such a plan. The Division of Student Affairs has decided to place considerable effort on Orientation programs as a focal point for educating incoming students on the resources available to students at NSU. During Orientation, Orientation Leaders spend a considerable amount of time educating students on — and answering questions about — student activities, student clubs and organizations, and university resources available to students. Other than orientation, we have the Shark Bites, our weekly e-student newsletter which is published by the Office of Student Media and is read by our 7,000 students each week.
Q3: Discuss the negative and/or positive ramifications of the fragmentation of the student body on student involvement, engagement, affinity, advocacy and empowerment at NSU.
A: The fragmentation of the student body has both challenges and opportunities. We traditionally have a student body that is typically over the age of 21 and, yet still, a growing number of students who matriculate in the form of online courses, satellite campuses, and evening and weekend courses. Because each College, School, or Program is unique, it is beneficial, for example, for each College, School, or Program to be served by a Student Government Association and Student Organizations that cater to their specific issues and desires. The challenge moving forward will perhaps come in the form of a greater university identity: does the student body think of themselves as Sharks first, or as students at a College, School or Program first? This is a challenge that is constantly at the conscious of the Division of Student Affairs as we devise programs and services, ensuring that they cater to the general university community.
Q4: Does the University have a plan to increase student affinity? If so, give a general overview of what that plan is.
A: The Division of Student Affairs at NSU believes that affinity is about building relationships with students, which start at orientation and continue well after the student graduates from the University. We have developed an NSU Experience Model, which tracks the involvement of both residential and non-residential undergraduate students. This model has demonstrated that NSU is improving the manner in which it engages students, as is demonstrated by an increase of both residential and non-residential students who are involved in campus life. This information has been of great assistance to the Division of Student Affairs in improving the quality of the relationship between the student and the university, and it has provided insight on how we can improve.
Q5: What is the University’s plan to increase charitable giving, community service and philanthropic initiatives amongst the student body?
A: As we speak, there is a plethora of philanthropy, community service, and charitable giving initiatives taking place amongst the student body. In addition to the planned Relay for Life towards the end of the winter 2012 semester that benefits the American Cancer Society, student giving at NSU is admirable. Medical school students are going on missions throughout the world with the objective of providing rudimentary medical care to those who are less fortunate. Optometry students are providing eye care on missions throughout Central America. Dental students are proving dental care for underprivileged students. Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority held a powerful walk last semester to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention. These are some of the many examples of student giving at NSU. The student population has a willingness to give, which is the cornerstone of the NSU experience. It is our hope that our students, once they leave the university setting, will continue to give throughout their lives and careers, and as such, we provide all the tools and resources necessary for them to do so.
Q6: Make the argument for an off-campus student to move into the residence halls on campus.
A: There are many arguments that can be made, but the most convincing is the proximity of classes to the residence halls, which allows students to avoid increasing transportation costs and the hustle and bustle of South Florida traffic. The second, and more immaterial argument is that living on campus is a once in a lifetime opportunity that a student will have; it is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person in a setting that provides all the resources for a student to do so, including the staff and administrators of the Division of Student Affairs.
Q7: Make the argument for a student to become more involved in campus life.
A: First, student involvement provides students with a way to discover themselves in a manner that allows for not only self-discovery, but self-improvement. The ability to discover one’s skills and improve upon one’s shortcomings is a skill that one needs in order to survive in the real world. Second, and more pertinent to one’s professional career, is that student involvement, and student leadership in particular, demonstrates to prospective employers your abilities and capabilities, as the campus life experience is designed to mirror what students will encounter when they leave the university setting and enter the workforce. In addition to preparing students for the workforce by imparting professional skills such as management and communication, student involvement gives students the opportunity to set themselves apart in an economy where an average of five individuals apply for a job opening.
Q8: Does the University have a strategy to both improve and increase the social Greek community at NSU?
A: The social Greek community has a fundamental place in the role of student life at NSU. Greek organizations instill a sense of professionalism, community, and service within and amongst its members, hence creating students who understand the importance of student involvement. While the long term objective is to increase the size of the social Greek community at NSU, we strive for quality above all else. For the Division of Student Affairs, the top priority is to ensure that Greek organizations on campus have all the resources that they need to recruit and otherwise organize themselves in a manner that will result in longevity.
Q9: What is the University’s goal for undergraduate student enrollment, and how does it plan on going about achieving this goal?
A: The University’s objective is to aggressively develop our undergraduate program by 2020. To achieve this, we plan to, first, leverage dual admissions programs in attracting students within the region. Second, we plan to increase both the number of scholarships and the amount of the scholarships so as to increase the number of talented students enrolling to study at the University. Third, the University has worked on a plan that requires targeted recruiting not only with the South Florida region, but within the remainder of the state, within the nation, and in select countries throughout the globe. Not only do we want to attract the best and the brightest in the state of Florida, we want to attract the best and the brightest on a national and global level, as well. These steps, when considered collectively, will ensure that we are increasing the student population in a manner that benefits both the student body and the University.
Q10: Does the University have a comprehensive plan to both increase and improve non-business and non-science academic programs of study? If so, give a general overview of this plan.
A: The University is always looking at ways to improve academic quality. A significant portion of NSU’s Vision 2020, articulated by President Hanbury, is to achieve recognition for academic excellence university-wide. End of term class surveys in particular provide a window into how we are serving our students’ academic needs, as the University’s primary objective is to provide well-grounded and diverse academic programs. Student feedback is essential to the improvement of NSU academics, and we are always looking for ways to improve academic programs and academic services. Alongside this are programs offered at the University that have received national recognition, including the Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis, which is one of only two Ph.D. programs in the nation, and the School of Oceanography, a world leader in coral reef research.
Q11: Would the university’s administration be averse to publishing, at the beginning of each academic school year, where the portion of the student service fees that the student governments do not allocate goes, with specific amounts and percentages?
A: The University would not be averse to making this information public to any student that requests it. I can tell you, however, that 71 percent of all student activity and service fees go toward university technology. This is appropriate, as many of the 29,000 students matriculated at NSU are online students, and all NSU students use technology. The remaining portion of the student service fee goes toward the Rec Plex, student counseling, student disability services, campus card services, and areas including student health and athletics. Finally, SGAs benefit from this fee as they disburse funds for clubs, events, concerts and professional opportunities for students.