ECSU eyes more weekend events for students
By Reggie Ponder
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
The Elizabeth City State University Board of Trustees has asked ECSU staff to explore ways to offer more activities that help students become part of the campus community and enhance their overall experience at the university.
The board's Student Experience discussed student activities — especially weekend opportunities — in response to a report on the work of the Division of Student Affairs presented by Nolan Davis, chief student affairs officer.
Davis' report is called "Building the Student Community: A Progress Report." He has been leading the trustees in looking at why students leave college and what ECSU's student affairs office can do to keep more students enrolled.
One of the main reasons students don't stay in college is because they don't know why they are in college, Davis said. He added that homesickness can be a challenge, too, along with difficulty in joining a new community, marked by a feeling of loneliness and not having a sense of friendships.
In considering those challenges the university's Division of Student Affairs is working to build a welcoming community on campus, Davis told the committee.
Student affairs is focused especially on first semester students, Davis said, because research shows that students have one semester to accept their new identity as a college student.
With that in mind, new student orientation is now focusd on getting students ready for the first semester and the student affairs staff works during the first two weeks of the semester on building connections and helping students feel welcome, according to Davis.
The Division of Student Affairds conducts a two-week training program for dormitory resident assistants, he said.
Trustee Harold Barnes asked Davis about feedback from students regarding new student orientation and other student life activities. Davis said feedback often does not come until later, so the staff faces a lag time in getting feedback.
Board of Trustees Chairman Kim Brown said it's important to get input from students in shaping student activities.
Trustee Brittney Lamb, who heads ECSU's student government and represents students on the Board of Trustees, said students are involved in planning a majority of what are known as "consistent" student programs — the major events held every year on a regular schedule.
But in response to a question from Barnes about what could be done better to enhance the experience of students, Lamb said "relaxing, enjoyable" programs are needed on weekends. Many students go home on the weekend. She said it's troubling that students choose to be somewhere else other than a place they are paying to be, Lamb said.
Lamb also said the university needs to address concerns of students who don't live in residence halls to ensure they are able to have a good student experience.
ECSU does a good job with big events such as Homecoming and Viking Fest, Lamb said, but "it's those in-between times that we have been struggling with."
Lamb noted very few students were on campus during the recent Labor Day weekend.
Trustee Fred Yates followed up on Lamb's comment about Labor Day weekend and other weekends. Yates asked if it would help to provide recreation and other activities on weekends, and she said it would.
Brown, who serves as senior pastor of The Mount, said the church used to average 200 ECSU students a week at worship services, but he’s seen a sharp decline in that number over the past eight years. He said he wonders whether that’s related in any way to reductions in university student life staff over that same period.
Chancellor Thomas Conway suggested the board discuss the student affairs budget at its next meeting, taking a close look at budget and staffing changes and how and why they occurred.
In another matter related to student life, Trustee Jan King Robinson asked about 24-hour security coverage in residence halls.
Davis confirmed that the dormitories do have 24-hour security coverage, with staff on-duty at all times.