Campus Life and the Rustler Spirit
On the standard calendar, April and May end the first quarter and start the second of the year. However, on a college campus calendar, they mark the end of an academic year. The balloons start showing up, small parties are planned, teachers and students begin the countdown. Nights get later with test reviews, writing final papers, hitting the library and the internet, finalizing projects, having final group presentations, and calculating extra credit. Teams are ending their season, preparing for playoffs, and there are final concerts, plays and art shows. Students have turned in scholarship applications and are finalizing transfer plans and state credential testing. The buzz of activity reminds us why we are here and the importance of what we do.
It’s a time when we reflect back on what we’ve done this year as it winds down:
We celebrated the reopening of the Art Gallery with the African Gala. We attended the opening of the Virtual Interactive Combat Environment at our Criminal Justice Training Center. We received a $900,000 five-year grant to expand our Nursing program from the Hoag Hospital Foundation. We danced at the 13th Annual Gala fundraiser. We cheered as both the men’s and women’s Water Polo teams won the State Championships in our new pool. We welcomed 280 students from 20 Orange County schools to the Science Olympiad. We watched exceptional Plays - Proof, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and How I Learned to Drive. We welcomed 1000 High School Seniors to College Preview Day. On one night we had the chance to attend a student fundraiser for children’s cancer and the Over the Rainbow fundraiser for foster students. We learned about non-violence and environmental concerns at the Peace Conference. These events round out the college experience by involving students and community and make classroom learning come alive.
Now as the year comes to an end, it’s time to make our final check-list for the things we still need to do to ensure a successful end to a packed year.
Make plans to watch spring sports teams wind up their active seasons. Get tickets to see the spring musical, Grease. Check Twitter, Facebook and YouTube links to follow the progress of our computer science students in the Microsoft Imagine Cup National Finals. Welcome 500 High School Students to our Chicano/Latino Day. Make out your check in support of our annual Scholarship and Awards event or purchase tickets for the newest Foundation fundraiser, Texas Hold ’Em. Order your cap and gown for graduation. Send thank you notes to teachers and staff members who have made this another successful year. And finally, buy a ticket for the end of the year Staff & Faculty Appreciation Breakfast. Seems like a lot to cram in to these last few weeks. Campus life is filled with activities that enrich our educational experience and make learning more than rote; it is in activities such as these that relationships are developed and the quality of life is improved.
Research on Student Engagement tells us that students who are active in these extra-curricular activities have higher retention rates and achieve higher levels of satisfaction and success. Human Resources has similar findings for faculty and staff satisfaction. I think it’s because people have time to relate and share their stories. It’s been at these informal events I’ve heard students share what they have been through. For so many the struggle has been incredibly difficult, they have lost jobs, or had work hours changed mid-stream, family issues have broken their train of thought if not, at times, dampened their spirits. Sometimes they couldn’t get the class they needed, or misunderstood an assignment or requirement, only to have to do it over again. While the hurdles have been different, none of them had a free pass – each one had to face a challenge and prove they could overcome their particular obstacle. More than any other life lesson, college teaches persistence. Extra-curricular activities provide the sticky-glue that keeps us connected and help students find their strength so they can overcome the challenges. Student Engagement is not just new research terminology; it is a factor of college life. So mark your calendars, attend an event, and engage yourself in the Rustler Spirit.