Student Engagement Network making strides in program development

Student Engagement Network Tagline
Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over the last several months, the Student Engagement Network (SEN) has made significant progress in advancing the University’s strategic priority focusing on transforming education through student engagement.

One of Penn State President Eric Barron’s six University-wide imperatives for education, the activation of the Student Engagement Network places Penn State among a growing number of leading universities directing attention toward initiatives that positively affect students’ intellectual, personal and social development.

"Research has shown that engaged students are healthier, happier and primed for success. The Student Engagement Network will help ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to learn and grow through a variety of out-of-classroom experiences."

-- Penn State President Eric Barron

Highlighting the importance of the initiative, executive sponsors of the Student Engagement Network include: Tracey Huston, interim vice president for Outreach and associate vice president for Marketing and Enrollment Services for Outreach and Online Education; Robert Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education; and Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs.

In 2011, the Student Engagement Service Learning Task Force was created by Pangborn, Sims and then-Vice President for Outreach and Vice Provost for Online Education Craig Weidemann, to explore the opportunities for a coordinated University approach to service learning, as well as curricular and co-curricular undergraduate student engagement. That led to the creation of the Council on Engaged Scholarship in 2012, which focused on building an infrastructure to make engaged scholarship a part of the fabric of Penn State to ensure that every undergraduate student can participate in at least one — if not multiple — engaged scholarship experiences before graduation.

The Student Engagement Network is the latest evolution of the initiative and will support and enhance current University engagement efforts, while also establishing new opportunities for students, faculty, staff and the wider Penn State community. For a more detailed history of student engagement initiatives at Penn State, visit the Student Engagement Network timeline.

“The Student Engagement Network advances the power of participation and promotes self-reflection by connecting students with experiences that enrich learning and empower them to make a positive impact on the world,” said Michael Zeman, director of the Student Engagement Network. “The ultimate goal of the network is to help students build essential skills through transformative experiences for continued success after graduation.”

Engagement experiences cover a variety of learning and growth opportunities, including artistic creation and performance, civic engagement, co-ops, internships, leadership and participation in student clubs and organizations, service learning, study abroad, study away, undergraduate research, and volunteer work, among others.

"Research has shown that engaged students are healthier, happier and primed for success," said Penn State President Eric Barron. "The Student Engagement Network will help ensure that all of our students have the opportunity to learn and grow through a variety of out-of-classroom experiences."

To connect students to engagement opportunities and help faculty and staff develop collaborative partnerships between students and the University, the Student Engagement Network has initiated the following projects: development of the website, Engagement Space, Faculty Academy, Student Grant Program, and the Student Internship Program. website
The Student Engagement Network recently unveiled its temporary website as an entry point for students, faculty and staff seeking engagement opportunities, resources and information. The site focuses on two goals: to connect students with engagement experiences and to provide faculty and staff with the tools necessary to create meaningful engagement opportunities. The development of the permanent website will begin in fall 2017 with an expected launch date of 2019.

Engagement Space
Launching in the HUB-Robeson Center this fall, the Engagement Space invites students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to participate in the research design phase of the program where input is requested to help build several features and functions of the space. The Engagement Space also will allow visitors to actively search and contribute to the vast database of engagement opportunities available to students at the University. The Engagement Space will feature Student Engagement Network interns who will help fellow students find opportunities to broaden their learning experiences, work with faculty and staff to explain how they can become involved with student engagement, and explain the value of student engagement to the wider Penn State community. Learn more about the Engagement Space here.

Faculty Academy
The Faculty Academy deepens University-wide discourse, practice and recognition of student engagement at Penn State, and recently selected its first assembly of scholars and fellows.

Nicholas Rowland, associate professor of sociology and environmental studies at Penn State Altoona, and Peter Aeschbacher, associate professor of landscape architecture and architecture, have been appointed to two-year terms as the academy’s first faculty scholars. Their work will center on applied research projects that synthesize long-term areas of scholarship, strengthen University and community partnerships through civic engagement, and expand the practice of public interest design.

The Fellows, who have been appointed to one-year terms, include: Chris Bopp, associate professor of kinesiology; Sascha Meinrath Palmer Chair in Telecommunications; Kira Hamman, instructor in mathematics at Penn State Mont Alto; and John Carroll, distinguished professor of information sciences and technology. A team of faculty from the College of Arts and Architecture also has been selected as Fellows and includes: Ann Clements, associate professor of music education; B. Stephen Carpenter II, associate professor of music education and African studies; Aaron Knochel, assistant professor of art education; Susan Russell, associate professor of theater and speaker laureate; and Barton Pursel, manager of faculty programs, education and technology services. The Fellows will develop research, scholarship, creative accomplishments and programming (courses and curriculum) surrounding student engagement during the 2017-18 academic year. Learn more about the Faculty Academy here.

Student Grant Program
The Student Grant Program funds undergraduate engagement experiences and, in its inaugural semester of summer 2017, received a total of 257 applications. Of the applicants, 217 originated from University Park, and 40 were received from Penn State campuses throughout the Commonwealth.

At the end of the summer, grant awardees will reflect on their engagement experiences as well as their academic, personal and social growth, which will shed light on the student perspective and inform the progression of resources made available through the Student Engagement Network. Grant applications for the 2017 fall semester will open in August. Learn more about the grant program here.

Student Internship Program
The Student Internship Program is designed to allow students to help their peers enhance their learning experience and is currently enlisting its first cohort to assist with the development of the Engagement Space. Current interns include Brian Davis, Genevieve Logerie, Jessica Malerman and Karen Asiedu. They will serve as ambassadors in the Engagement Space to explain the value of student engagement to the wider Penn State community. Learn more about the internship program here.

For more information about the Student Engagement Network, contact Zeman at [email protected].