CAS Student Advisory Board Spotlight
Mar 30, 2021
“Inviting, productive, fun and insightful,” are words Mitch Tapia, a class of 2020 graduate, used to describe his experience as a member of the CAS Student Advisory Board (SAB).
Nearly a decade ago, the College of Arts and Sciences founded the first CAS Student Advisory Board. SAB, led by Assistant Dean Jennifer Droege, is a dedicated group of approximately twenty-five students spanning all years and majors across the college.
The students who apply for SAB each year are determined to lend their voices and perspectives to the continuous improvement of the college. Each month, students share their questions, concerns and ideas directly with members of the Dean’s Office staff.
The last year showcased the immense adaptability and dedication of the Student Advisory Board. Faced with a sudden shift to remote learning in March 2020, board members decided they still wanted to continue meeting via Zoom. The members’ counsel helped the Dean’s Office better understand in real time what was working well and what could be improved. As students returned to campus in August 2020, feedback from the spring student board came to drive processes and practices that brought degrees of normalcy to student life and learning.
Students who originally applied to SAB did not anticipate the commitment 2020 would present. However, they shared a common desire to make sure student voices were being heard, which was more important this year than ever.
As Matt Donnelly, a junior studying Life Sciences for Business, Chemistry and Theology, explained, “I chose to apply because I saw an opportunity to represent my college in a leadership position, and I would have the ability to raise concerns that could impact the remaining years of my time at Xavier. I wanted to have a voice to keep administration in the loop, and make sure that student ideas were reaching the right people.”
Faced with unprecedented challenges, student representatives lent even more of their time to the betterment of the college. In addition to monthly meetings, students opted in to additional conversations with administrators. These conversations focused on a variety of needs determined by students and the Dean’s Office staff, including academic advising and diversity and inclusion practices within the college.
As a result, student input has helped shaped a variety of decisions made by CAS leadership. Student suggestions on how to improve academic advising are helping to inform an upcoming summer task force comprised of CAS faculty who will work together to strengthen advising. Further, student suggestions led to the first-ever CAS monthly student newsletter, helping to streamline student communication and build community within the college. This e-mail newsletter also allows CAS to better highlight faculty efforts, for example their work to build more inclusive classroom environments through the participation in the Diversity & Inclusion Teaching Academy offered by the Center for Teaching Excellence.
The SAB members repeatedly impress the college leadership not just with the poise and clarity of their suggestions, but also by the students’ willingness to dedicate free time to drive college excellence for current and future Musketeers. “Even though I only have one more year at Xavier, there are students who will start in the fall in a similar position that I was in, and helping them get off to the strongest start possibly is very important to me,” Matt explained.
In addition to monthly meetings, the Dean’s Office prioritizes getting to know students on a personal level. Sheridan Davenport, a class of 2020 graduate who served on SAB during her senior year shared, “it’s nice that CAS office went out of the way to have meals with SAB to create community.” With limited opportunities to meet with students outside the classroom, creating a close-knit environment on the SAB became an integral part of the openness and community aspect that helps define the board’s mission.
As the 2020-2021 academic year comes to an end, Assistant Dean Jennifer Droege shared her perspective on the hard work of the SAB members: “The students are engaged and solution-oriented, while also not afraid to offer our office constructive criticism. I leave each meeting feeling energized and reminded of the good work our students put into their studies and the university.”