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5 minute read

Highlights from Our Re-Envisioning Student Engagement Series with Dr. Audrey Murrell

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Episode 1: Disruptive Innovation and a Post-Pandemic Campus

As a special guest at our Student Retention Mini-Con back in April 2021, Dr. Murrell introduced Re-Envisioning Student Engagement as a place to explore the innovations, best practices and discussions energizing the transition to a Post-Pandemic campus. 

With this first episode–a much shorter introduction to what would later become more fleshed-out roundtable presentations–Dr. Murrell explored the topic of Disruptive Innovation and how the Pandemic presents a moment of great opportunity for those universities brave enough to seize it. 

Topics covered included:

  • Defining Disruptive Innovation.
  • How empathy can impact your response to tough circumstances.
  • How student engagement is changed by the circumstances of the student.
  • Strategies learned because of the disruption of the Pandemic that can help to support student efficacy–both inside and outside the classroom.

Episode 2: How Collaborative Learning Improves Diversity Equity and Inclusion Programs

Episode 2 came along during national protests to end racial violence for African Americans, outcries following incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes and a rise of hate groups on college campuses. 

In response, Dr. Murrell took this opportunity to address Collaborative Learning, inclusivity and how diversity can’t truly thrive without both.  

Topics covered included:

  • Defining Inclusive Engagement and its importance post-Pandemic.
  • Defining Collaborative Learning as a way to go beyond group projects or simply working together. 
  • Key priorities for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs.

We didn’t record a video of this presentation but Dr. Murrell included her key takeaways in a post on our blog. 

Episode 3: How To Leverage Student Data Analytics For Maximum Impact

If you tune into the Re-Envisioning Student Engagement series to the end, you’ll see a common theme Audrey comes back to again and again: big data DOES NOT equal good data. Big data practices can often lead to destructive and non-inclusive decision-making that can hinder student success outcomes. 

Since this is such a critical topic, Dr. Murrell enlisted a little help in the form of Claye Greene. Claye is the founder and CEO of Tech Blue, a management and IT services consulting firm in Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

Topics covered included:

  • What is the difference between big data and “good” data?
  • How can we make smarter decisions once we gain “good” data?
  • How can data be used not only to evaluate outcomes but also to drive program improvements?
  • How should we communicate data outcomes to inform and engage key stakeholders


Episode 4: Re-Envisioning Global Educational Experiences – A Call For Necessary Integration

An often-bemoaned casualty of the COVID pandemic is the threat or outright destruction of global educational experiences. From Study Abroad programs to global affairs education to internship placements, colleges and universities were forced to shut themselves off from the world. 

With this disruption came the creation of online learning and virtual internship programs. But these can’t replace global education on their own. And while the return of global education will likely come, the question remains: what should global education look like on a post-pandemic campus? 

Topics covered included:

  • Why global education is more essential than ever. 
  • How to measure global competence for career readiness. 
  • How to add diverse curricular requirements in addition to expanded global opportunities. 
  • Why globally competent students are more employable in the short and long term.

This episode, Dr. Murrell welcomed Dr. Amelia J. Dietrich. Amelia is Director for Research and Resources at The Forum on Education Abroad & Managing Editor at Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. 

Episode 5: Integrating Employer Engagement throughout the Student Experience

The partnership between colleges and employers has long been seen as a win-win. Educational institutions can offer students an education that makes them as employable as possible in the current market. And employers leverage this early exposure as a way to bolster their talent pipelines.

The COVID Pandemic disrupted the nature of the workplace and re-ordered priorities on career placement, career readiness competency and more. To better understand these disruptions, there’s never been a better time to invest in employer relationships and commit to career readiness throughout the student experience.

Topics covered included:

  • (Re)defining employability.
  • Competencies as employability capital.
  • How to create and leverage strong corporate partnerships.

This episode, Dr. Murrell welcomed Chris Meaner, Director Of Career Development at the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration.

Episode 6: Alumni Engagement and the Power of Identification for Student Success

Because Episode 5’s topic and guest were so popular, we decided to stay on the topic of external network engagement to focus on another powerful tool in fostering student success: Alumni Engagement. 

Research shows that students who connect with alumni for recruitment, early socialization, mentoring, career advice and long-term networking have a stronger connection to their college or university and report greater long-term satisfaction with their educational experience. This is especially true for undergraduate minority and first-generation students. 

So how can your school get started building and supporting the types of Alumni relationships most impactful on student success?

Topics covered included:

  • What is the A.R.M. approach to Alumni Engagement & Management?
  • How to work with existing alumni relations professionals and resources to create better student experiences. 
  • What creates meaningful connections for students and how do you scale them to your campus? 
  • How to train your students to be “pleasantly persistent” in pursuit of valuable networking relationships. 

In this episode, Dr. Murrell welcomed back Chris Meaner, Director Of Career Development at the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration and added Pitt Business Director of Alumni Relations Amy McCloskey.

Episode 7: The Power of Mentoring for Student Success

While we all know that mentoring matters, it can be easy to overlook it. The right mentor can fuel student engagement, provide career clarity, nurture individual identity and promote overall well-being.

This episode unpacked the different types of mentorship, the research on how mentoring correlates to student success, ways to find the right mentor and best practices for mentorship.

Topics covered included:

  • The impacts that different types of mentors can make on your students
  • How various mentoring strategies correlate with student success and positive outcomes 
  • What mentoring programs look like at other institutions and the results they’re seeing

Episode 8: Developing Cultural Competence to Enhance Student Engagement and Resilience

The importance of cultural competence and inclusion is an essential part of any diversity and equity effort. 

This episode focused on the role of experiential learning approaches in developing cultural competence among students, faculty and staff.

Topics covered included:

  • How cultural competence impacts the student experience particularly among diverse student populations
  • How effective service-learning can provide a “safe space” for self-awareness of cultural differences and one’s own cultural biases
  • Unpacking the different dimensions of cultural competence beyond awareness


Episode 9: Developing Women in Leadership: Effective Strategies for Success

On college campuses and amongst students, representation includes a strong pipeline of women and female-identifying leaders.

Dr. Murrell was joined by Crystal McCormick Ware, Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisor to the President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Duquense University, for a special Women’s History Month discussion about the opportunities and barriers for developing women in the higher ed space.

Topics covered included:

  • Overcoming the persistent barriers that stand in the way of women in academic areas such as STEM
  • Effective programs and resources to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the development of diverse leaders including women
  • The impact mentors, role models and other allies make when supporting women in non-traditional majors and professions

Episode 10: The Power of Financial Literacy on Student Engagement and Success

This episode discussed the important role financial literacy plays in student engagement, wellness, and success.

With finances being one of the most common reasons students drop out of college and a top stressor for 18-24-year-old adults, it offered high-impact strategies for helping students take control of their financial literacy. 

Topics covered included:

  • How addressing the issue of student debt is essential for improving student outcomes
  • Proven tools and strategies to enhance students’ financial literacy
  • The role early financial literacy plays in students' well-being and development

Episode 11: Building Student Resilience Through Asset-Based Thinking

Student resilience is directly correlated with positive outcomes, more engagement and the ability to handle challenges.

This timely episode looked at the most effective tools, coping mechanisms and strategies to help students become more resilient in college and in life beyond graduation.

Topics covered included:

  • Proven tools and strategies that help enhance students’ resilience
  • The benefit of asset-based thinking and coping strategies
  • The negative impact stress, anxiety and other factors make on student engagement and success


Episode 12: Tying It All Together: The Future of Co-Curricular Learning & Assessment

Dr. Murrell, joined by guest speaker, Dr. Amelia Parnell, Vice President for Research and Policy at NASPA, took a deep dive into the latest trends in co-curricular learning, from developing competency frameworks to scalable co-curricular experiences.

This episode tied together the concepts, strategies and research of the previous 11 episodes, to help administrators make a plan for the future of co-curricular development on their campus.

Topics covered included:

  • Research, data and proven best practices on co-curricular frameworks
  • Assessment of student learning outcomes
  • How to leverage data to inform strategy across the entire campus

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Jessica Fischer

Jessica Fischer