Lee may be a small, private university, but the school recently received national attention as it was listed as one of the country’s top 11 colleges for student engagement.
The Wall Street Journal ranking has nothing to do with the ring by spring phenomenon. Instead, it refers to student involvement and growth in all aspects of campus life. Of all colleges nationwide, Lee is tied for sixth on the list of 11—among big names like Brown University, Texas A&M University and the University of Southern California.
Senior pastoral ministries major Natalie Jerman said the engaging environment is largely due to the interaction between students and faculty.
“Lee students have a real sense of family,” Jerman said. “The faculty at Lee create an environment for growth in relationship with each other and relationship with Christ. This cultivates the students to become engaged inside and outside of the classroom.”
Though “student engagement” is a vague term, WSJ measured engagement levels through surveys that provided student feedback on how challenged and inspired—academically or otherwise—the students felt at school.
According to the article, student engagement fosters critical thinking, collaborative skills and connections between learned material and real-world applications.
Associate Professor of Sociology Arlie Tagayuna said he tailors his teaching style to incorporate what students will need beyond the classroom. He incorporates challenging discussions, group assignments and practical application to widen each student’s capacity to learn, according to Tagayuna.
“I want [my students] to have different lenses and to look through different prisms, so they have multiple ways of thinking instead of just one,” Tagayuna said.
A notable detail of the WSJ list of universities is that eight of the 11 have religious affiliations. Professor of Psychology and Human Development Susan Ashcraft said she believes the feeling of engagement may be bolstered by the cultivation of religion on a college campus.
“I think inviting God into the equation, understanding that He is an active participant in our engagement and allowing him to inspire us makes religious campus life more [engaging] than others,” Ashcraft said.
While Christian campuses may attract people of similar backgrounds, allowing a common thread among students, Lee has a diverse composition of students, faculty and staff—merging different races, nationalities, social classes and belief systems—so a point of commonality is not guaranteed. But Jerman said Lee’s community thrives nonetheless.
“Our environment at Lee has brought [many] to a place where we are engaging in a Godly, family-centered, holistic environment,” Jerman said. “Our requirements at Lee make us a family bound together by Christ.”
Additionally, the leadership on campus encourages students to engage in discussions about values and ideas that differ from the Christian perspective. Tagayuna and Ashcraft both said they are aware of the responsibility they hold as professors, and they believe that Lee professors do a good job at creating a healthy, growing environment for students.
Ashcraft said she believes that relationship with others is necessary for an environment that honors Christ. She states that being involved in community is healthy and contributes to holistic growth.
Education major Cat Armstrong said she has found professors’ engagement particularly inspiring. She explained that, when they take the time to make her feel seen and establish a relationship, she feels more engaged.
“My moment of realizing Lee was superior in inspiring students was in Education 199 with Dr. Robinson,” Armstrong said. “He spoke with passion and enthusiasm and talked about his students like they were the next world leaders.”
This intentional interaction between students and faculty is only part of what sets Lee apart. Tagayuna said the united goal of communal improvement in the pursuit of God pushes Lee above the bar, making it one of the nation’s most engaging schools.
“We are building a community of learners, a community of believers, a community of academic scholars, a community of everything,” Tagayuna said. “We emphasize that there’s something more substantial to force us to become better. It’s an add-on to what other universities are lacking.”
To learn more about the Wall Street Journal’s list of most engaging colleges, read their article here.