The student experience takes work – lots of it!

Terry Hanson APUHowever our time with Terry Franson Senior Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California  sure did prove this work is worth it. I was particularly happy we could talk over lunch because of the emphasis on the student experience we have at the University of Adelaide right now – we are waiting the arrival of our new Pro Vice Chancellor Student Experience a new strategic role for us to help the university address this critical area.  APU has been successfully engaging with students, caring for them pastorally and supporting their learning goals for the last 113 years. In this episode Terry shares some of the wisdom he and his team have learnt.

Terry’s opening statement about “holding the umbrella of the student’s out of classroom experience” and the list of things and mention of 26 different departments that followed, is a reminder of the need for holistic thinking when developing students to be the sort of graduates all stakeholders hope them to be.  When asked to describe today’s students and “where are they at?” Terry’s response has significant implications for any university. He clearly flags that the students have a huge interest in justice, their focus is about injustice to any person and writing the wrongs of society.  Listen carefully to the list of injustices about which the students care passionately and the global scope of their concern.  As I reflect on this I will revisit the pedagogical framework of “Challenge Based Learning” as it holds a lot of promise for the needs of today’s students.

We talk about the qualities of the “new bred of students” and how the student will champion the rights of their fellow person and also goes on to describe that which the faith based school can bring to the table.  Terry describes APU’s Natural Affinity Group and how with approximately 11,000 students how they make “little groups out of big groups” … they work hard at it. First year students are paired in a one to ten ratio with second year students who have leadership tendencies.  It is exciting to hear how these groups work. APU is very intentional about developing community to learn to live together and it is clear everybody matters who comes to APU no matter their background.  This year they are developing a cohort of about 600 student leaders and they meet about 6 times a year for personal development …. it is clearly all about the students and APU is very very intentional about developing community.

I asked Terry what he thinks APU does best with the student experience and he goes on to describe its integration with the academic experience and how the academics or teachers are not just about the classroom but are about the quality of life of the student and them reaching their life goals. APU also works hard to see the academics have the support they need for this holistic approach to the life of the student at university and try to make the integration of student life with their academic endeavour as seamless as possible.

This podcast episode summarises the goals of today’s students is to make a difference and it is the opening of an ongoing conversation and Terry has offered to part of it. APU is setting up an Online University and there are a lot of questions how do we build the quality of student life in a virtual world. It is not impossible, it is just different.  I will be asking him to participate in a webinar or two when I return to Australia so stay tuned.

Helpful Resources:
The Offices of Student Life at APU

Challenge Based Learning Components

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