Stephanie Wilson, recently named assistant provost of experiential learning, is looking to increase community engagement with students across campus.
The Bonner Foundation, a new organization on campus whose goal is to provide opportunity for engagement particularly for students with financial need, is one of Wilson’s biggest focuses on campus right now.
Just like with students who work in places like the library and various offices around campus, students in the Bonner program are expected to put in eight to 10 hours of work a week.
“The idea is that with that level of commitment, eight to 10 hours a week, every week, for four years, you develop skills around helping organizations grow their capacity for service, and their leadership opportunities within the organization too,” Wilson said.
By having these students on campus, Wilson hopes to expand Capital’s general capacity for community engagement.
“The Bonner piece is one aspect of community engagement that we’re kind of working on,” Wilson said. She is also responsible for undergraduate research, internships, community engagement (both Bonner and various other aspects), overseeing the honors program and working toward a capstone project for all students.
According to the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the activities listed above are all considered high impact practices. Meaning, if a student participates, they tend to retain with the university and to persist through college and beyond. Wilson also mentioned that they thrive in aspects such as problem-solving skills.
“The positive impact is even greater for students who might come from traditionally underrepresented groups,” Wilson said.
For example, students of color, or even first-generation college students, will benefit in a greater way.
“We just want to make students aware of these opportunities and support their work that they’re doing,” Wilson said. “Any opportunity that a student has to participate in any of those things is great. So if we can grow that capacity, it’s fantastic.”
Wilson is hoping to make studying abroad a more attainable goal for students, and she is currently looking at what the major barrier is for Capital students and studying away.
“Is it a lack of knowledge of the opportunities? Is it sort of a misunderstanding for how financial aid would work for study abroad? Or are there actual real, legitimate financial barriers?” Wilson said.
Wilson is working with Jennifer Adams to get a sense of how comparable institutions are handling their study abroad programs in an attempt to grow Capital’s presence.
They are also looking to increase short-term study abroad across campus.
“We have majors on campus where there’s very little breathing room,” Wilson said. “So if you’re a nursing major, an education major, conservatory majors, they don’t have a lot of room for flexibility.”
With short-term study abroad, these students could potentially still have the opportunity to have the study abroad experience.
“The benefits are there, even with short-term study away,” Wilson said.
Overall, Wilson has one major goal while in her new position.
“My overall goal is just growing capacity of the programs that we have,” Wilson said. “It’s all wins. If we get two more students doing it, that’s a benefit for them. There’s really no downside.”