Our new students arrived on Sunday and we were ready for them. We spent the summer combining forces to use strengths and skills to create a comprehensive, fun new student experience that we also hoped our returning students would appreciate. We have yet to do assessment, but are working on ways to gauge how well programs worked. A few things we did:
New student online guide: Popcorn!
Rather than send out a pamphlet or piece of paper to get lost amongst the Quizno’s coupons students get in their packet, we created an online video and tutorial presence. It still has a long way to go, but it’s a start. And it provides tutorials that professors can assign students to take. We just moved over to a brand-new online course management system and now have a portal for all college web activities. We are encouraging professors worried about how students will react to the new systems to assign these tutorials.
Why the name? We gave out bags of microwave popcorn stickered with the website address out to all new students. It was cheap, easy and welcomed warmly by scared freshpeople. We also had TVs showing the videos on a loop throughout the library. And we designed t-shirts with the wonderful CustomInk (who gives me nothing for showing them some love) that all staff wore opening day. The shirts made staff more visible to worried students who could not connect their computers to find out what their other friends were doing via Facebook at their new school.
New Student CARNinfoVAL
I started this last year and it went over well with students sick of attending lectures on financial aid. Resident Assistants bring over groups as part of orientation week, a partnership started by visiting with the Dean of Students office (the office you should be working as much with as the faculty). By turning carnival games into learning opportunities, fun is had by students in the library. This was inspired by the wonderful University of Wisconsin-Madison’s House Party in which there is no bait-and-switch, but just the promise of a good time once a year in the library. Once again, the arts n’ crafts room was most popular. This event is successful in huge part because student workers run the booths with great enthusiasm. I mean, how often are you told to run a duck pond at your job?
Crashing student events
A strong relationship with the Dean of Students office means getting opportunities to connect with students in meaningful ways. Our archivist, Abbi Brown, and I were invited to set up a booth at the student organization fair. A bit confusing to students who thought we had an archives club, but well worth staying up until 11:30pm to do!
Abbi set up a photo booth that was pure genius. She printed out old, funny archives photos that she had on display. She borrowed old-tymey hats and outfits from the Theatre Department. Using Picnik, she’s giving the photos that daguerreotype look. Students had to LIKE the Archives on Facebook in order to access their photos. She also created stickers similar to “I Voted” ones so that students could proclaim that they too Like the Archives.
The Library had a button-making booth. We provided old magazines and craft supplies and told them that in the spirit of promoting information, we would make a button out of whatever they made. Amazingly, no one tested the boundaries of censorship. Rather, it was a tight contest between pictures of Ron Weasley and puppies followed closely by Bieber.
These are a few of the many activities we provided for new and returning students. As I said, we have yet to assess them in terms of success and effectiveness. One of the main keys to succesful outreach to students is a good relationship with your Dean of Students office. They hold the keys to reaching students where they are at.