Student Involvement on University Committees
Tips for Meaningful Engagement
Current students can offer tremendous value to university committees, task forces, working groups, and similar. The following tips are offered as advice to faculty and administrators in working with students in this capacity.
- Students will need to work around their schedules for meetings. Encourage students so share their schedules (e.g. class, work, family, etc…) and accommodate their availability. Students’ schedules change frequently (at a minimum, semesterly, but more frequently too). Take care to accommodate students who have other commitments besides MSU Denver. Student engagement opportunities need to be accessible to students who have varying commitments and responsibilities. Note: Students generally do not rely on Outlook calendar to share availability. Work with them directly to identify and communicate meeting times.
- Employee or volunteer? Discuss expectations with student. If they’re a student employee, also discuss with student’s supervisor. Clarify if they will be engaged as an employee or volunteer.
- Consider compensating non-employees for their service(s). Consider a gift card or other token of your appreciation for their contributions if compensation otherwise is not a fit.
Be explicit with sharing these types of logistical decisions with the student at the time they are invited to participate in the committee.
- Be upfront. Discuss the time commitments of committee work. Be aware of student involvement during summer or breaks when students are not on campus.
- Create space. Committee chair(s) should meet with students to clarify scope and purpose of the committee. Give them space and time to ask questions.
- Check-in. There is oftentimes a power differential between committee leader(s), members, and student member(s). Take reasonable steps to mitigate this so the student participant(s) can be comfortable and engaged.
- Be flexible. Allow students to come and go- their classes come first.
Setting the Tone.
- Encourage introductions that explain each member’s role on campus. Be sure to emphasize the importance of students’ roles on the committee.
- Operating Agreements. Set group expectations by defining key parameters of the group’s work and respecting diverse opinions.
- Use caution. Be careful not to tokenize the students or expect them to speak on behalf of all students or students with whom they share an identity or experience.
- Ask for volunteers. Ask the student committee members to volunteer for various tasks/projects, just as other committee members are asked to do so.
A Learning Experience.
Be mindful that committee work can be a valuable learning experience and professional development opportunity for the involved student(s).
- Logical committee assignments. Inquire with the student(s) about how the committee work may be applicable to their classes and/or career aspirations.
- Engage in meaningful reflection about the committee work to help further their learning.
- Continuously offer the student supportive and constructive feedback. Let them know you want them to grow, learn, and develop.
- Academic outcome(s). Connect with relevant faculty to determine if the student can use committee work as part of an independent study for credit, an internship, and/or link to academic outcomes.
- External contacts. Help set the student up to develop successful professional relationships outside of the MSU Denver community. Suggest informational interviews or employer tours.
- Resume & References. Students may use committee work to further their academic and/or professional paths and may include this work on their resume. Be prepared to have student(s) ask committee members for a job reference or a letter of recommendation. Committee member(s) should let students know if they are comfortable, or not comfortable, offering a positive endorsement.
- Through committee work, you may learn a lot about a student that might not otherwise surface in their classes or other campus activities. If you learn that a student is in need of support or may benefit from University services refer them to the CARE Team or other applicable services/supports.
- Be mindful of the other relationships that faculty and staff may hold with students serving on committees. For example, faculty members may be current, past, or future instructors of the student(s) and staff may have similar primarily relationships and obligations to the students. Encourage committee members to establish appropriate boundaries to ensure that their primary role(s) teaching and/or supporting students are not compromised.
- If a student committee member becomes disengaged and/or stops attending, in addition to checking in with them directly (see above), also check in with the person/department who referred you to the student to share your observations. It may make sense to replace the student on the committee so that the student perspective can be maintained. Likewise, if an otherwise engaged and/or responsive student has had a discernable change in their behavior, this may be an indication that there is a greater concern and they may benefit from support (file a CARE report).
- For further guidance, questions, or additional information on engaging with students for University work functions, please contact the Dean of Students Office at 303-615-0220.