Some 30+ years ago, while sitting in various smoke-filled board rooms for hours at a time some, I had no idea how campus discussions about the “Student Experience” would evolve during the ensuing three decades.
I recall my first effort at addressing the Student Experience. During that specific campus meeting, the topic was food service, and I was being grilled as the new kid on campus. In attendance were the school president, all the vice presidents, members of the College Council, the student newspaper editor and what seemed like a supporting cast of thousands.
Students were tired of being served liver, mystery meat, boiled lamb shank, Old Medford fruit punch (if you went to camp in the ’60s, you drank this by the gallon to cover the taste of sulfur water from the well) and a plethora of other bizarre foods not fit for mass consumption.
Everyone in attendance agreed the food being served on campus was awful, and it was my job to get it fixed, cut staff, reduce cost of goods, and keep the students happy so they’d stay on campus and not transfer to another college.
That was my introduction to addressing the Student Experience.
[Note: We did have fun turning things around on that campus. We changed the menu, renovated the facilities, created a declining balance meal plan, offered beer and wine with certain meals, and even built the longest ice cream sundae on record (which, at 500 feet long, was listed briefly in the Guinness Book of Records, until being eclipsed by a mile-long model). Students began to feel better about the campus and that administrators really listened to them and improved the available services.]
Fast forward three decade . . . and look at what’s happening now: Architects design campuses with “collision points” that physically bring people together. Libraries are designed with food courts and cafes inside. Residential facilities are built to look and feel like independent apartments. Athletic facilities have work-out centers that put commercial facilities to shame. Stadiums are created to hold 100,000 fans—and they’re always sold out. Campuses are creating “one-stop shopping malls” for students to pay fees, obtain transcripts, ask questions and receive counseling.
I have been amazed at what I have seen on campuses as I travel around the country. Every single campus in the higher education sector, from community colleges to professional graduate schools, is focused on providing the best Student Experience possible—from the time potential students visit the school’s Web site to their retirement, students are the focus of their institution’s attention.
It doesn’t stop at commencement, either; that ceremony is just the beginning (the commencement) of a new style of Student Experience—the “Alumni Experience”!
In the Alumni Experience: Return to campus and relive your youth. Use our special logo credit card to show your proud alumni status. Keep in touch with friends and colleagues by using our alumni portal and your old internet address. Cheer for your favorite athletic team. Buy your children a logo bib. Send your kids to us to educate and continue the family tradition. When you retire, return to campus to live and audit our courses for free.
I have yet to see a campus with its own cemetery or mausoleum, but we’re headed in that direction.
I thought I had seen everything prior to a recent visit I made to High Point University in High Point, North Carolina, but I now realize I had not met Nido Qubein, High Point’s president, a successful author, speaker and business professional. I believe he has set the bar for Student Experience.
Here are a few examples why:
- Dr. Qubein loves music and believes it should be an essential part of life, so the main walkways at High Point have classical music playing from the lamp posts. Furthermore, the dining experience is enhanced with music so, during lunchtime, live music is performed on stage in the main dining facility.
- The temperature in North Carolina can be hot, so Dr. Qubein created free bottled water stations around campus to handle thirst and keep anyone visiting campus hydrated with High Point University-branded water.
Happy students are successful students, and everyone smiles when they are handed a treat. Taking that to the next level, Dr. Qubein had an ice cream van built that now cruises the campus from time-to-time passing out free ice cream treats.
- Parking late a night can become a challenge because of construction projects, so when students return to their residence halls after 9:00 PM, they have the option of free valet parking when they pull up in front of their residences.
- With a multi-million–dollar construction occurring on campus, the accompanying dust can make student cars dirty. On certain Saturdays, a local Greek organization will spiff up the cars of High Point students, and Dr. Qubein pays the bill. This great service also serves to build community on campus.
Students are the “What’s Most Important” to all of us. Every day education professionals are working on programs, building facilities and creating policies to improve the Student Experience. You are part of that team, and we at Blackboard are your partners in this effort. We can help smooth service delivery and build communication channels, and find new sources of revenue in the process.
We wish you a great summer of building creativity for the 2007/2008 academic year. Please stay in touch and let us know how we can help you build the best Student Experience for your campus.