Sitting in a room with student leaders from across the Missouri State campus is a great way to spend an hour. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit with members of the Student Affairs Advisory Board sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs. Our conversation was enlightening for someone who hasn’t been a college student for, well, more years than we will talk about.
I was curious to know why they applied to be on the Student Affairs Advisory Board. I mean, they are busy with classes, work, studying and other organizations. Avionne Jones, a senior from Kansas City, said “I wanted to meet people and share the thoughts and concerns of our students with the campus administration.” Olivia Smith, a junior from Lincoln, Nebraska, added “I was a part of the Emerging Leaders program, and that program gave me the confidence to apply for other leadership positions on campus, including the Student Advisory Board.”
Of course, our conversation turned to COVID-19 and the pandemic. Like everyone, these students lost on-campus learning, hanging out with their friends and the money they would have earned from their jobs. Kat Ruch, a sophomore from St. Louis, noted “the loss of control of basically anything was one of the biggest changes for me.” Others noted that moving back home after living on their own was challenging, but they worked through it – and most said they were now closer to their family members than before the pandemic. “I learned not to take anything for granted” said Drew Minnis, a freshman from Chillicothe, MO. That’s a valuable lesson for all of us.
For most, moving from on-campus classes to ALL online classes was the most difficult challenge. As we know, each person learns differently than the one sitting next to them, so they all had to adjust their way of thinking. Zoom fatigue was quick to set in but the members of the board adapted to this new way of learning. According to Chase Stockton, first year graduate student from Springfield, MO, “Having the caliber of professors that Missouri State has helped as they made their Zoom classes engaging and helpful.” Many of the students said that the recording of the sessions was helpful because they could go back and re-watch the lectures and pick up things they might have missed. As Avionne put it, “I feel like I became a better student by re-watching the recordings.”
The conversation turned to involvement on campus, and what inspired them to get involved. Vonetta Ivy-Medlock, a senior from Springfield, MO, pointed out that “getting involved helps you care more about Missouri State, and helps make Missouri State a better campus.” Armani Eason, a transfer student, said “Getting involved helped me stay at Missouri State because I was able to make connections.”
I wondered how the students thought their co-curricular experiences would help them as they looked for a job after graduation. Michael Chapman from Liberty, MO pointed out that “being involved with many different organizations helped me realize what I wanted to do after I graduated.” Let me tell you, the members of this board are Resident Assistants, SOAR leaders, Ursa leaders, and active in the Association of International Students, the African Student Association and the Student Government Association, just to name a few.
I was excited to ask students one of my favorite question: “What do you wish your family knew before you started college.” Emily talked about being a first-generation student. “I wish they would have understood what general education classes were or understand how credits transfer,” she said. Drew said he wished his family knew that “things have changed through the years, and we make connections differently.” Orlondo Williams, a sophomore from St. Louis, MO, said “I wish my family knew that I wouldn’t always be available when they called but that’s okay.”
To end our conversation, I asked the students what advice they would give to family members as our new students get ready to join us in the Fall. Kat encouraged family members to “let your student make their own mistakes, it’s the way they learn.” Good advice, don’t you think?
My time with the members of the Student Affairs Advisory Board was time well-spent. I learned a lot about the every day life of a Missouri State Bear, and know that Missouri State is in good hands.