Chapter 1: Visions of the Possible

In this chapter, we introduce four interlocking relationship-rich principles that guide both effective programs and generative cultures at colleges and universities:

  • Every student must experience genuine welcome and deep care. All students need to understand that they are valued as people. This is prerequisite to believing that they belong on campus, which is essential for persistence and academic success.
  • Every student must be inspired to learn. Students too often approach their education as a series of transactions, hurdles to be cleared, and grades to be negotiated. Relationships help transform learning and motivation. All faculty members have opportunities to show genuine interest in students, share their passion for and expertise in their disciplines, and spark students to learn. Staff and peers are also crucial in creating communities that inspire learning in and out of the classroom.
  • Every student must develop a web of significant relationships. Many students may need to be coached and encouraged to take the initiative to build relationships with faculty, staff, and peers, whom they might initially view as intimidating or unapproachable. Institutional structures, like formal advising and mentoring programs, if done well, can serve as catalysts by helping students build strong foundations for growing networks of educational relationships, but individual actors also are essential to help students feel they belong and can succeed.
  • Every student must explore questions of meaning and purpose. College is a time for asking big questions about the world and about yourself. This is best done in conversation with mentors, teachers, peers, and others with life experience to share–people who care enough to take the time to listen generously and to encourage critical reflection. These questions provide the foundation for more practical explorations about majors, careers, and employment. Without meaningful questions and relationships at the heart of the college experience, students are likely to drift aimlessly.