Post-secondary institutions boast diverse campus communities, comprised of students, staff, and faculty of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Their uniqueness is further evidenced through the intimate social structures to which they belong; as caregivers, adult children, and countless other identities, characterized by various needs and responsibilities. Higher education continues to benefit from increasingly holistic approaches to individual and campus-wide engagement. Needless to say, consideration must be given to the fact that students and employees bring the support and consideration of loved ones into their campus experience. Thus, post-secondary institutions should consider best practices for not only accommodating all campus community members, but also:
The people they support
The implementation of family-friendly policies and programs, available to all members of the campus community who proudly call themselves parents and caregivers, should be rooted in current research findings and remain flexible to the ever-changing demands of society. Establishing clear and reasonable guidelines for parental leave among staff and faculty is one of the most commonly cited recommendations in today’s literature. Additionally, there is a great deal of discussion taking place around equal access to affordable childcare and family housing for those who need it, as well as on-campus support groups and services.
The people that support them
Beyond financial support, many post-secondary students look to their parents- or any other authoritative figure in their life- for reassurance and advice. Increased media attention surrounding issues such as mental health, sexual assault, and substance abuse on campus means increased concern among parents and guardians over the well-being of their adult children. Thus, they may be more likely to seek out additional information, resources, and ways to offer support. Inviting them to participate in workshops and events- both informative and recreational- could be a great way to extend student engagement efforts beyond campus and into family life. Not to mention, the potential for such events to further support today’s large population of first-generation students, as well as their families. Similarly, access to online resources and communities, covering a wide-range of higher ed topics, could prove to be invaluable for students as well as the caring folks looking out for them.
No Higher Ed-er is an Island
At the end of the day, many of us attribute at least a portion of our motivation, determination, and success to the individuals standing behind us, depending on us, wanting to support us in any way possible. Our people. Initiatives aimed at campus-wide engagement in higher education should certainly acknowledge the uniqueness and complexity within the individual. However, they must also consider the individual as belonging to an intimate support system. Their role within which may have just as profound an effect on their identity and needs as any other facet of their being.