Engaging a New Generation of Students

Many of us on campus feel the push and pull of how to engage with this generation of students.

As followers of Christ, it is not always clear how to position ourselves within a campus culture that is prone to demonizing us.   We are trying to figure out what it means to share our love, care, and faith with others. And this is while facing increased expectations, fewer resources, and possible burnout. I’ve felt it, and I know many of my colleagues have.

To address this conundrum, I keep coming back to the idea of reframing my job.

Reframing is a way to rethink how we look at something and, ultimately, our experience. Jesus took his position and did differently with it than people expected. Consider John 8:6-7 or Luke 7:38.

Having been to many teaching conferences on higher education, I’ve noticed a preponderance of presentations on student anxiety, depression, and the mental state of our students. Some faculty rail against this concept, saying that students need to mature, while others present themselves as overly accommodating by relaxing deadlines.

What if we start by listening to our students? One of the workshops that I teach is called learning experience design. To engage in this process means to interview students about their preferences on learning.

I ask students about their favorite learning and least favorite learning experience in high school and college. I then gain insights about my students from these conversations that are truly enlightening.

I’ve learned what lights my students up, what fears and struggles they face as they put themselves out there in search of internships and job placements. What I’ve found is that the experience of engaging with my students has done a few things:

1) It’s strengthened my rapport with them. I am able to understand them better and even press in where I can. I’ve found students contacting me more often.

2) It has allowed me to talk more about who I am as a person. This is done over time and it is natural. Students have grown to see me as someone on whom they can rely.

3) Engaging with these students has increased my motivation to teach. It truly has.

While I have rough days like anyone, I find myself wanting to come alongside as many students as possible to provide mentorship and guidance.

As Christ followers, we are uniquely positioned to provide care to this generation of students. The students I taught 15 years ago are very different from the ones I teach today. And it is easier to become the “stodgy” old professor who would rather see today’s students conform to my old teaching methods.

Instead, we have a new opportunity to find new and fun ways to engage our students, as well as learn a few things from them. Jesus was both an authority and a comfort, and we can provide both direction and guidance to our students.

It may be the thing they need right now.

Christian Rogers
Computer Graphics Technology