Making College “Worth It” – Season 1, Episode 2

In a 2021 survey conducted by the Elon University Poll and the Center for Engaged Learning, 54.5% of recent college graduates indicated that they’d encountered meaningful relationships with faculty or staff multiple times, and 69.1% reported multiple meaningful relationships with other students. Unfortunately, 16.4% reported never developing those relationships with faculty or staff, and 9.8% never developed meaningful relationships with peers. How can students make connections in college?

Our panelists – Isis Artze-Vega (Valencia College), Oscar R. Miranda Tapia (North Carolina State University), and Peter Felten (Elon University) – share strategies from their new book (with Leo Lambert), Connections are Everything: A College Student’s Guide to Relationship-Rich Education. Read the book for free on Project Muse, thanks to a grant from the Gardner Institute. Explore teaching and faculty development resources related to the book on the Center’s website.

View a transcript of this episode.

Meet our Guests

Our guests are the authors (with Leo Lambert) of Connections are Everything: A College Student’s Guide to Relationship-Rich Education.

Headshot of Isis Artze-Vega

Isis Artze-Vega is the college provost and vice president for academic affairs at Valencia College. She is a coauthor of The Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching.

Headshot of Oscar R. Miranda Tapia

Oscar R. Miranda Tapia is pursuing his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development at North Carolina State University.

Headshot of Peter Felten

Peter Felten is the executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, the assistant provost for teaching and learning, and a professor of history at Elon University.

Episode Credits

This episode is co-hosted by Jessie L. Moore, Director of Elon University’s Center for Engaged Learning, and Sydni Brown, a senior at Elon University who is majoring in Communications Design and Strategic Communications. Making College “Worth It” is produced by Elon University’s Center for Engaged Learning.

Episode art was created by Jennie Goforth, managing editor for the Center for Engaged Learning, and Nolan Schultheis, the Center’s undergraduate Podcast Producer.

Funky Percussions is by Denys Kyshchuk (@audiocoffeemusic) – Soft Beat is by ComaStudio.

Learn More about Research Featured in this Episode

Research Featured in the Featured Books

Review research details for Connections are Everything.

Review research details for Relationship-Rich Education.

Center Resources about Relationships

Three students are talking around computers while a professor listens and smiles.

Cultivating Vulnerability in Mentoring Relationships

Recently, I co-facilitated an undergraduate workshop about intentionally building connections with supportive faculty, staff, and peer mentors. In alignment with principles from relational mentoring, we collectively acknowledged that embracing some personal vulnerability was crucial for building meaningful interpersonal connections (Johnson…

Image of a student and teacher looking at a computer screen. The following quote by Peter Felten is overlayed: "Three practices can make relationship-rich education possible no matter how many students you teach."

Relationship-Rich Education at Scale, aka the Too Many Bodies Problem

Decades of research demonstrates that student learning and well-being in higher education are enhanced by positive relationships with peers and instructors (Felten and Lambert 2020). Yet, one common challenge with relationship-rich education is scale. How is this possible when I’m…

Three students sit outside on Elon's campus having a lively conversation.

The Power of Peer Mentorship for Entering Freshmen Undergraduates

In the nuanced progression of academia, the senior year of high school often sees students basking in the aura of impending graduation—confident top dogs, gazing down at the bewildered freshmen making the leap from middle school to high school. The…

Two women sit together at a table, deep in conversation. Text overlay reads, “Deeper life interactions have a strong potential to positively influence students, and mentoring relationships are an opportunistic space to weave in these interactions.”

Mentoring Relationships That Go “Beneath the Surface”

Over the past few decades, numerous scholars have conducted research on mentoring relationships in college (Crisp and Cruz 2009; Jacobi 1991). Although much has been explored and written about mentoring undergraduates, Vandermaas-Peeler and Moore (2022) recently articulated a summative and…

Center Resources about Relationship Accelerators

Capstone Experiences

Definition Capstone experiences aim to facilitate students’ sense-making of their growth and development across their major or general educational studies and have been a hallmark of undergraduate education in one form or another for at least as long as higher education has…

High Impact Practices and Historically Underrepresented Minority Students

For over a decade Kuh’s (2008) work on the critical importance of engaged learning has shaped the undergraduate college and university experience. Kuh dubbed these teaching and learning experiences High Impact Practices, and taking part in at least one of them at…

Immersive Learning

Definition Immersive learning is more than a single pedagogy or specific practice. It covers a wide range of approaches to teaching and learning, and isn’t specifically attached to a specific discipline, course of study, or eventual profession. It is, rather,…


Definition Two commonly cited definitions of internships are those from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS).  Since the term “internship” lacks a consistent definition across the…

Learning Communities

Definition Learning communities emphasize collaborative partnerships between students, faculty, and staff, and attempt to restructure the university curriculum to address structural barriers to educational excellence. In their 1990 publication Learning Communities: Creating Connections Among Students, Faculty, and Disciplines, Faith Gabelnick, Jean MacGregor, Roberta S….


Definition Service-learning was one of the ten experiences listed as a high-impact practice (HIP) when such practices were first identified by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) in 2007. Given the many benefits that service-learning experiences offer students…

Students as Partners

Definition Students as Partners in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, or simply Students as Partners (SaP), is a pedagogical approach that has been embraced recently by many higher education institutions primarily in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia….

Supporting Neurodiverse and Physically Disabled Students in Engaged Learning

by Caroline J. Ketcham Welcome, here is what you can expect: This page will share dialogue about resources around access, inclusion, and supports for neurodivergent and physically disabled students in higher education settings. It is the beginning of a conversation…

Undergraduate Research

Definition The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) defines undergraduate research as: “An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.” Similarly, Kinkead (2003) notes that Undergraduate Research (UR) can…

Work-Integrated Learning

Definition Work-integrated learning (WIL) is an approach to education that allows students to obtain work experiences related to what they are learning in a classroom setting (International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, n.d; Jackson 2016). Ferns, Campbell, and Zegwaard (2014) describe…