Co-curricular involvement improves post-grad outcomes. Here's how to get students to care.

Under the leadership of President Gloria Cordes Larson, Bentley University is preparing students to thrive at work and in life after college. To help drive student success, Bentley’s division of student affairs leverages their Gallup student outcomes data to strategically invest in programs and experiences that have a long-term impact. This data identified specific boosters to student success, including involvement in extracurricular activities, relationships with mentors who encourage goals, and being challenged to fulfill their potential. Divisional leaders analyzed these results and identified three themes to serve as the basis for the co-curricular experience: engagement, leadership experiences, and advising/mentoring.

Assess student affairs divisions against overarching themes

As a next step, Bentley student affairs created assessment rubrics for each overarching theme. For example, the leadership experiences rubric includes intentional diversity education, peer mentorship, and student self-efficacy. Once the rubrics were finalized, staff used them to map current programs and initiatives in their unit. Dr. Andrew Shepardson, vice president for student affairs at Bentley, highlighted how “this process served as a gap exercise for our staff. It was valuable in getting us all focused on how we are trying to accomplish these three things.”

Encourage students to engage by demonstrating long-term impact

The information gathered from the assessment rubrics provided the basis for a student marketing campaign. Bentley developed targeted messaging and outreach initiatives designed to raise awareness of co-curricular experiences. For example, marketing collateral advertising leadership experiences highlights the wide range of opportunities available coupled with student testimonials.

Shepardson notes “engagement and involvement is such an important part of the learning in place-based education. Yet it is tough for students to make the time to do it.” As a result, Bentley staff also embedded information about these co-curricular experiences' long-term impacts, noting how 1 in 3 leadership roles contain intentional diversity education and 80% of opportunities provide staff to student mentoring.

While the initiatives to reshape the co-curricular experience at Bentley are still in the early stages, Shepardson emphasizes how the overall goal is “to provide students with a roadmap to ensure they are taking advantage of the activities and experiences that are tied to important long-term outcomes such as well-being and workplace engagement.”

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