Wanting to improve school culture? Look to these 3 resources

A sense of belonging is key to keeping students engaged and enrolled. Here's what research recommends for leaders ahead of 2024-25.

Ask yourself this question: “How does my decision-making reflect the needs of my students?” If you’re struggling to answer that question confidently—or if you’re looking to improve school culture this year—you may enjoy hearing from students directly about how they grade their colleges and universities based on their ability to create a sense of belonging for their student body.

Overall, higher education is doing a pretty good job of offering supportive services like mental health counseling, new research from the American Council on Higher Education asserts. Nearly 60% of current students say they’re able to talk with a campus mental health professional when they need to. Furthermore, more than half (57%) of students surveyed say they frequently feel anxious, underscoring the importance of these services.

Students’ interactions with campus faculty also play an important role in a school’s culture, the authors of the report attest. For the most part, students agree that their school’s faculty empowered them to learn (61%). Another 26% of students strongly agreed with this statement.

More than one-third of students (36%) also said that their professors encouraged them to ask questions and participate in discussions. Another 38% of students felt their contributions in class were valued.

Advice for leaders

So how should campus leaders leverage these insights? It’s up to you to provide resources and build the capacity to address the variety of challenges students face. The researchers advise senior leaders to start by asking these three questions:

  • How are we assessing students’ sense of belonging at the institutional level, especially that of underrepresented students?
  • Does the distribution of the institution’s service usage rates look like the campus’s population?
  • How are we identifying barriers to engagement for our students and actively working to reduce those barriers?

“This approach is crucial for fostering a supportive and successful campus environment,” the authors wrote. “Once these questions have been posted, senior leaders should bring any insights to cabinet meetings, stakeholder conversations and engagement with community partners to address gaps that have been identified.”

In addition to these questions, the authors recommend that presidents and senior executives look to these resources for more understanding:

Our coverage

You can also explore University Business’ recent coverage surrounding college culture and student mental health, including these articles:

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://universitybusiness.com
Micah Ward is a University Business staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

Most Popular