On Wednesday, UMBS staff members Alicia Farmer and Stephanie Shaulskiy (Manager and Evaluation Coordinator for the Transforming Learning Program, respectively) presented about the Biological Station at the 2018 Annual Advising Conference in Ann Arbor. They were joined by two former UMBS students: Eric Bastien, who took the Microbes in the Wild extension class last summer, and Sondra Halprin, a General Ecology and Environmental Writing student from 2015 who returned last spring for the Green Building: Straw Bale Building class.
Based on the results of a 2017 evaluation conducted by Shaulskiy – including electronic surveys and focus groups – UMBS students reported a strong sense of belonging in the Station community, a sentiment reiterated by Bastien and Halprin. Farmer and Shaulskiy were able to draw from these data to explore what makes UMBS such a tight-knit community. This work corresponded perfectly with the theme for the 2018 Advising Conference: "Building Community at the University of Michigan."
“Students at the Station had distinctive experiences that made them feel like part of a community,” says Shaulskiy. “At the Advising Conference, we discussed what those experiences were, whether or not anything similar is already happening on campus, and how we can bring some of those experiences back to Ann Arbor.”
According to Shaulskiy, the community-feel seems to be centered around connection with fellow students, faculty, and the place itself. Though considerably more challenging on a campus of 30,000 undergraduates, she believes that interconnectedness can be recreated at the department, classroom, and advising levels.
“Student feedback supports the importance of experiential and project based learning, as well as a healthy dose of informal interaction with faculty and peers,” says Shaulskiy. “A professor meeting a student for coffee or an in-house advising appointment at a residence hall could go a long way.”
This summer, Shaulskiy will enter year two of her evaluation, adding pretests and additional focus groups to her existing body of research.