Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Recognizing Students - Entry #34

This month I have come full circle in my Writing Project.  The genesis for this yearlong effort began with students at my campus.  Last May 2012, as the spring semester was ending, I wanted to personally thank the undergraduates working in our student services suite so I handwrote thank you notes to each of them.  That got me thinking about the process of writing and sending out handcrafted correspondence.  One thing led to another and, voila, The Writing Project was born.  Fast forward one year later and a number of the recipients for the cards I have (and will) send out this month are also current students at UConn Waterbury.  Instead of student employees I am targeting recently elected student government officers, campus leaders, and individuals that have increased their grades enough to remove themselves from academic probation.  Start with students.  End with students.

Besides the symmetry this represents, and maybe a subtle encouragement for the undergraduates to think about writing their own handwritten notes, I had specific reasons for writing to each group.  For example, I wanted the student leaders to know that their efforts, especially at a commuter campus, are vital to help build some semblance of community.  Commuter students have so many commitments tugging at them in all different directions—work, family life, and school.  Those individuals that carve out a portion of their time to lead a club or organization deserve our attention.  This is what I wanted to relay to the student leaders.  For example, our Psychology Club organized a simple end-of-semester food drive.  In the past, similar activities have taken place with less than stellar results.  This time around the campus-wide collection was well-publicized, donations were dropped off on a regular basis and, most importantly, the non-perishable items were picked up and delivered to the food pantry.  Great job!  The administration does notice.

For the newly elected student government officers my message was the same as that to the other club leaders.  However, I wanted to convey a bit more.  These undergraduates provide year round programming to the study body—from the frivolous to the more educational.  Their commitment to bettering the campus, within their individual time constraints, is more substantial.  Sometimes we (the student services staff and campus hierarchy) might take their dedication and diligence for granted, not really acknowledging their efforts and how it improves the quality of life on campus.  I wanted my cards to let the incoming officers, all who had been involved in student government previously, know we do take notice, we greatly appreciate all your efforts, and we thank you.

The last group of students I will write to before the Writing Project concludes are those undergraduates that, having been on academic probation, have pulled themselves up academically to now be in good standing.  In other words, their grades improved enough where dismissal from the University is no longer a dark cloud hanging over their heads.   During each semester I get together regularly with individuals on academic probation.  From the start, I tell them if they work hard and consistently meet with me every few weeks the odds of them doing well increases dramatically.  Throughout each term a large percentage of the students that heed my advice see the fruits of their labor.  It all culminates when final grades are recorded to reveal a satisfactory (or higher) semester grade point average.  My note to these students will express my congratulations for their improved grades, for their dedication to their studies, and to a brighter future.  In essence, I am hoping my card is the final confidence booster so when the following semester begins these students can now fly on their own. 

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