Living Room Recliner or Stadium Seating: A Student Development Perspective
By Lee Yowell, Associate Dean of Student Development
Have you ever wondered why NFL fans still go to watch football games live at the stadium? I was watching a football game a few weeks ago with a friend on a 60 inch, flat panel, high-definition, television. The picture was amazing. We were sitting in comfortable chairs, in a warm house, with more snacks than either of us had business eating. As we watched, the fans were packed into the stadium and the newscasters were reporting that in addition to the heavy snow fall, the temperature was in the low teens, and a wind chill that made it feel even colder. Yet there were thousands of fans that paid a lot of money for their tickets. Why were they paying so much money to watch the same game we were watching, when we had a better view of the field, and more comfy conditions to enjoy the game?
Some universities have made a similar argument regarding higher education and have shifted to online education. Now, don't get me wrong, I think online education is a great tool and one that will be used more frequently in the future. But while some schools have moved their entire academic programs to the virtual classroom, each year, millions of college students make the choice to move onto a college campus and participate in a traditional undergraduate program. The similarities are pretty obvious, if one only wants to watch the game then you can easily sit at home and watch TV. If you just want to hear the lecture and complete the assignment, then an online class might fit the bill. But these millions of college students and their parents have realized what those fans in the football stadium also understand: There is more to the game than just the final score or, in our case, the degree.
In Student Development, we firmly believe that just as much learning happens outside of the classroom as inside the classroom. Our focus is on intentionally providing a college experience that complements what is happening in the classroom and engaging students in other areas of their social, emotional and spiritual development. In doing so, we strive to fulfill our mission by "shaping and educating the whole person." It is the commitment to both learning and service that distinguishes our University. Whether its practical experience one learns from being a part of a club, residence hall staff, Student Government, or ministry team, students are putting the theory and skills they are learning in the classroom, into practice on and off campus. Through relationships we are committed to journeying with students as mentors, coaches and advisors. We strive to develop a campus culture and environment that promote a level of balance, providing opportunities for fellowship and fun as well as academic preparation and study.
Our belief is that it simply isn't enough to provide students an opportunity to study under an outstanding and committed faculty. We value the richness and diversity found in the relationships formed in the residence areas, the conversations that take place in the cafeteria, the corporate worship opportunities of the week, and the shared experiences that take place during social and athletic events throughout the year that allow us to "shape" and "cultivate" our students.
I think if you were to ask both the TV viewer and a fan at the stadium about the game and what they took away from their time watching it, of course you would have the same final score, but I also think they would articulate two vastly different stories. As a University, we are committed to providing students with an outstanding education, but our mission compels us to go further and provide students a "life-changing" college experience.