Change is in the air at Conestoga College and halls are abuzz with anticipation. A growing focus on student engagement and positive student experiences resulted in the creation of a Student Life office just over one year ago. Since that time, our efforts in Student Life have been focused on creating opportunities for meaningful involvement for students, fostering student connections, creating a greater capacity for student leadership and developing mechanisms for effective and engaging communication. Through cross-college focus groups, networking with colleagues across Ontario to share best practices and a review of current literature on student engagement, we arrived at a unique model for Student Life at Conestoga. The Student Life website ( www.conestogac.on.ca/studentlife ), launched five months ago, reflects the directions of student life and leadership at the College. The site was met with resounding appreciation from students and staff alike. The 30,000 hits to date reflect a student-friendly site with such features as Bloggers and the Condor Monthly which profiles student life activities and opportunities across the college and in the local community.
Perhaps the most significant and exciting changes to date comes in the form of students serving students. A new and tremendously successful orientation model introduced this year included student volunteer Orientation Leaders (which was tremendously successful). Twenty-one enthusiastic and dynamic students became Conestoga's first ever OLs (what is student leadership without an acronym?)
"Being an Orientation Leader has been one of the most unforgettable, rewarding experiences in my college career. It just feels different walking down the halls, having people say ‘hi'...it's like there is a buzz in the air. I know I've helped make a difference in Conestoga's culture”. (OL feedback, 2006)
With this leadership focus comes a feeling of energy and warmth that together we create with our students. At present, we continue to research Student Leadership models in post-secondary institutions and aspire to have our own model in place next year. Feel free to share any best practices! In January 2007, student leadership will thrive in a newly constructed Student Life Centre with the addition of an Information Desk to be staffed by student leaders. With a strong emphasis on ‘students serving students', we look forward to our continued contribution to the evolution of a campus defined by engaged, connected and dedicated student leaders.