Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

A Tiered Model for Linking Students to the Community

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

A Tiered Model for Linking Students to the Community

Article excerpt

University programs are striving to address students' needs as a means to increase engagement and retention (Han, 2014; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, & Whitt, 2010). The rising cost of college has prospective students considering costs of enrollment. The escalating cost has some university programs altering curriculum. In some cases, the mission and role of the university have shifted to preparing students for a profession. Activities that lead students to consider, develop, and refine their professional identity while simultaneously engaging with content are needed (Hurst, Thye, & Wise, 2014).

Developing Connections was created in response to this need. The professional development event is for undergraduates majoring in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS), current HDFS interns, and community professionals sponsored by the HDFS program, School of Family and Consumer Sciences, and College of Education and Human Development. Held each semester, the event extends classroom experiences, capitalizes on sustained community collaborations, and cultivates valuable professional development skills.

Developing Connections connects students, interns, community professionals, alumni, and the community with one another. Reciprocal in nature, these relationships benefit students, the academic program, community partners, and local economy. Using Developing Connections as a tiered model, authors outline the importance of student engagement, explain how the event is embedded in the curriculum, and illustrate the role of community partnerships in facilitating student development.

Context: Student Engagement

Building strong community partnerships and creating successful professional experiences are considered essential for student engagement. Community partnerships provide valuable voices from the field to prepare students for a career (Hurst et al., 2014). Involvement of community partners allows faculty to assess the developmental needs of students, receive curricular input, and enhance the quality of internship experiences.

It can be challenging to orchestrate linkages between a university and the community. Ostrander (2004) suggested two structural tenets for building strong university-community relationships: (1) joining two entities through a formal group, and (2) identifying a university liaison. The formal event described in this article, Developing Connections, joins the university and community. As a campussupported event, community partners are formally invited to attend. Community partners are actively involved through presenting posters, networking and recruiting student volunteers and interns, and conducting onsite interviews for interns.

Developing Connections is structured as a networking event offering professional development and poster displays; it is held each semester and lasts about 4 hours. Implementation expenses include promotion and marketing, parking, room/technology rental, and refreshments. After registration and poster display set-up, a keynote speaker presents his or her career path and provides advice to current students. Next, students network at the poster displays, and pre-internship students participate in onsite interviews related to internship placements. Poster content includes basics about the agency, such as client demographics, content area, mission statement, and internship responsibilities. The poster displays and presentations are structured informally, like an open house, so that HDFS students can attend and network. In fall 2015, approximately 25 professionals, 160 students, and 42 pre-internship students attended, and nearly 100 onsite interviews were completed with 21 agencies. In spring 2015, approximately 25 professionals, 210 students, 45 pre-internship students, and 36 HDFS interns attended, and approximately 70 onsite interviews were completed with 15 agencies.

An HDFS program faculty member is designated as the university liaison responsible for the coordination, implementation, and evaluation of Developing Connections. …

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