Free Coffee and Cake! A Retention Initiative to Promote First Year Business School Students’ Social Interaction With Their Peers And Staff.
Keywords:retention, belonging, student engagement, commuter students
This paper discusses the findings from a small case study which involved implementing a social initiative with year 1 students on retention ‘hotspot’ programmes in the Business School. Financed by the internal TLA fund, this initiative involved running four coffee and cake events over an academic year specifically for students on the hotspot programmes. The purpose of these events was to facilitate student interaction with other students and lecturers in the department, to promote social engagement, connectedness to the department and feelings of belonging. With increasing tuition fees and the tendency for students to live off campus, many students attend only formal timetabled teaching events and do not engage in additional activities. Arguably therefore, not all students fully connect to the university or department, thus affecting their feelings of belonging. A sense of belonging appears repeatedly in the literature as contributing towards student retention. Students and staff took part in an evaluation of the coffee and cake events in April 2012 and this paper discusses the findings. Results showed that the coffee and cake events contributed towards students’ feelings of belonging and made students feel valued. In particular, students particularly benefited from the liaisons with staff in a more relaxed, non-teaching environment.
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