George Mason University

News at Mason

Student Experience Redesign takes another step

February 17, 2017   /   by Preston Williams

Mason President Ángel Cabrera, left, thanked the groups for their work. "I hope it's not just the great ideas that come out of this dynamic but the energy and inspiration to make things happen," he said. Photo by Ron Aira.

An enthusiastic group of faculty, staff and students brainstormed ideas Monday afternoon at the Student Experience Summit in Dewberry Hall to cap the second phase of the Student Experience Redesign project intended to transform the Mason way of life for future generations of students.

The day-long visionary exercise brought together 240 representatives from a comprehensive range of university schools and departments.

The attendees split into small groups to tackle six topics related to the student experience: self-service 24/7 student support; first-year student care network; student initiation experiences; student voice; data-driven relationship management; and culture of service.

“At every single station I went to, there was at least one actionable item if not six or seven actionable items,” said David Burge, vice president for Enrollment Management and a member of the project’s executive team.

That collaborative team also included Michelle Marks, vice president for Academic Innovation and New Ventures; Rose Pascarell, vice president for University Life; and Marilyn Smith, vice president/chief information officer for Information Technology Services.

The goal of the project, set to be implemented by 2019, is to provide greater environmental and social supports for students of all backgrounds and to enhance the overall student experience, which organizers hope will lead to greater student satisfaction and stronger retention and graduation rates.

The appreciative inquiry exercise marked the end of a four-month evaluation phase of the Student Experience Redesign project. The first phase was a six-month self-study in tandem with education technology company Blackboard.

“The opportunity to bring together so many people from so many areas of the university—students, staff, and faculty—who approach student success potentially through many lenses enabled a variety of ideas and designs to come forward,” Pascarell said. “The designs produced today will serve as a springboard for the next stage of the project.”

Mason President Ángel Cabrera dropped by several tables to listen and to ask questions about the ideas being discussed.

“Eighty percent of the things I’ve heard today are things that the power to make them happen is right now in this room, or not too far from this room,” Cabrera said in thanking the groups for their work. “I hope it’s not just the great ideas that come out of this dynamic but the energy and inspiration to make things happen.”

The next step is to identify leaders for each of the six work groups, fill out those teams and then fine-tune the suggestions generated Monday. The executive team expects to have a final but flexible action plan in place by October.

“We want to link all of these plans into a singular unified roadmap for improving the student experience,” Burge said. “We think we are closer than ever before, because of this event.”