NACA BLOG - Defining Campus Activities - 7/11/2022

NACA2020_D4_004.jpgJuly 11, 2022

Defining Campus Activities
Amber Shaverdi Huston, CAE 
NACA Executive Director 

Are you an earbuds/headphone on or to chat with your seatmate airline passenger? I have a handful of podcasts that I try to catch up (
one that’s a staff favorite, but that’s a topic for another day) while I tackle work on the plane; however, it’s very common for seatmates to ask where I am off to and if I am traveling for work or personal. I am sure you face the same challenge as me, describing what it is exactly that you do and no you don’t relieve college every day. It’s even more baffling to those who aren’t members of a professional trade association to understand working in higher education yet not on a college campus, so I tuck away my earbuds and try my best not to overwhelm my seatmate with the benefits of the co-curricular experience.  

Campus Activities is a misleading label for our profession. The work ranges from caring for holistic human needs to creating inclusive spaces that promote vulnerability and growth. While Campus Activities may not appear to capture oversight of the college food pantry, student wellness, or even graduation ceremonies, however you bring event design, student theory, and compassion to each area – programming & beyond.  

With the evolution of campus activities and student life, NACA volunteers and staff have crafted definitions to guide our work. The definitions for involvement, engagement, and sense of belonging will be studied and assessed, so that no matter who we are conversing with – VPSA, stakeholder, or seatmate we are equipped to provide more robust information on the impact of Campus Activities.  

Campus Activities will experience even more rapid growth and serve to be a continued critical aspect of higher education as data demonstrates that a sense of belonging has risen as a top priority/need expressed by students. Building communities where everyone belongs has always been essential, however it hasn’t always had the spotlight it deserved but at this juncture Campus Activities can flex the impact on student success and persistence.  

The Research and Scholarship Group reviewed current literature and conducted focus groups at NACA Live to define the terms involvement, engagement, and sense of belonging. 

  • Involvement - Intentional Interactions that allow for participation in experiences which let participants choose a level of investment in the collegiate experience. 
  • Engagement - Sustained and shared interactions that create experiences for investment in meaning making, emotional responses, community connections, and/or further personal development 
  • Sense of Belonging - The extent to which individuals feel their authentic self to be accepted, respected, included, supported, and safe in the collegiate community. 

Thank you to the volunteers of the research scholarship advisory group and NACA staff who developed the definitions.  

Amber Shaverdi Huston, CAE is the executive director of the National Association for Campus Activities. Shaverdi Huston has over a decade of association management experience focusing on transforming operations and people through project management, process design, strategy and assessment. 

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