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Administrators, organizations work to improve student engagement

In a study completed by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Harding University, one of Oklahoma Christian University’s sister schools, earned the No. 3 spot for student engagement for the second year in a row.

In the world of higher education, student engagement refers to the potential for a student to thrive based on their learning environment and opportunities to get involved around their campus.

Oklahoma Christian’s current mission statement is to foster “a higher learning community that transforms lives for Christian faith, scholarship and service.” According to the Wall Street Journal, schools with a mission including faith have a better chance of obtaining a higher student engagement score.

“Eight of the top 11 schools for engagement have a religious affiliation,” The Wall Street Journal article said. “Those institutions often include in their missions the education of the entire student—body, mind and soul—and put a premium on group projects, mentoring and self-reflection.”

Oklahoma Christian’s Student Government Association (SGA) is aiming to put student engagement as one of their top priorities this semester with a new bylaw proposal to add college representatives to the senate. Vice President Taylor Dotson said this potential bylaw will make sure every student at Oklahoma Christian has a voice when it comes to their academics.

“We want to make sure every college student has exactly what they need, whether it’s an academic ruling or a piece of equipment,” Dotson said. “They all need a voice. We just want to make sure that’s always there in our senate regardless of representation in SGA, because academics is essentially what we’re here for.”

Assistant director for student success Lannea Pemberton runs the Bridge program, which provides mentoring and tutoring for students who come to Oklahoma Christian with low ACT scores.

With nine social service organizations and a variety of clubs on campus, Oklahoma Christian students are also provided with outlets outside of academics to explore new things and learn about themselves, Pemberton said.

“Oklahoma Christian has lots of opportunities for students to get involved,” Pemberton said. “If students need help, we have lots of opportunities for them to get help. If they need to get involved to feel like a more whole and complete person, there are lots of ways for them to get involved.”

According to the Wall Street Journal study, students who are engaged in campus activities and academics have sharper critical thinking skills and learn how to analyze abstract academic concepts into real-world understanding. The article also notes how many elite schools are lacking in their student engagement scores, missing one of the most significant aspects of the college experience.

Oklahoma Christian thrives on clubs such as the SGA, Dotson said. Before joining the SGA, Dotson considered transferring because she did not feel connected with her classmates. She believes it is “incredibly important” for students to be engaged in a community, as her experience in the SGA completely changed her college experience.

“My sophomore year, I came back, I joined SGA and I found my home at OC,” Dotson said. “It’s so important just to have a family and have a community regardless of what organization it is. If you join the SGA, you’re going to have that because there are so many diverse people, but even if it’s Outreach or EHI or club, find your people.”

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