13:12 PM

Doing the Work: CPS Creates a Climate of Belonging for Students


By Sheryl E. Taylor

The College of Public Service (CPS) is known for capturing and engaging the Greater Houston communities it serves through its various programs.

What about in serving its students? Just ask Richard Simonds, Director of College Data Analytics in CPS.

“Each semester I coordinate a Climate Survey for the College,” he said. “Recently, we concluded the entrance survey for Fall 2022. From this survey, more than 73 percent of students answered Agree or Strongly Agree to the question: ‘I feel a sense of connection and belonging with the College of Public Service.’”

While this is great news for the College … it isn’t resting on these laurels. CPS has much more in the works to further solidify its connection and service to students.

“One of the top strategic goals of the College is to engage with our students,” Simonds emphasized. “Currently, we are working to do that through a newly formed Student Advisory Board, a new student group called Commerce Connect, a focus on community engagement and social learning courses, and a college-specific newsletter, among other impactful work.”

In a recent article, “Colleges Are Still Struggling to Connect with Their Students, Survey Finds,” EDSCOOP learned that “only 12 percent of students feel a strong sense of belonging at their institutions” (survey results published by the software firm Salesforce). The article continues, “During the shift to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, many student surveys—including a 2020 study from Digital Promise—indicated that students felt disconnected from their peers and their institutions. Salesforce’s new survey suggests those feelings of disconnection have persisted now that students are largely back on campus.”

According to Dr. Ashley Blackburn, Associate Dean of CPS, the College has witnessed firsthand how the isolation experienced during COVID affected its students.

“Throughout the pandemic, we understood the need to work together to ensure the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff,” noted Blackburn. “One such example is the Solidarity Circles that were organized by our Social Work and other CPS faculty. It was important to the College to not only engage during the worst of the pandemic, but to understand the needs of our students so we could provide support.” She continued, “The impact of COVID is ongoing. So, it’s important that the College continues to offer various avenues for student engagement that will foster a sense of community and revitalize our on-campus engagement opportunities. Our most recent Climate Survey findings indicate that the majority of the students surveyed feel connected to the College and we will continue our efforts to instill this sense of belonging and in doing so, support student success.”