A Student's Perspective on Community

Submitted by Off Campus Living on March 7, 2013 - 2:22pm
A conversation with youth at the University of Guelph

Having the discussion on community showed how, though each person in our peer unit has a different definition based on their life experiences, all of the definitions had parts that overlapped. The discussion allowed for me to see how I could improve my definition of community: I could broaden it to encompass how students can get involved.

Community is about including all of the sub-groups in an area and having them come together and work collaboratively in a positive manner. This could take the form of students engaging with the community present in their university's city. In Guelph, we need students to care more about the Guelph community as a whole and have students stop considering themselves as separate from the community. At the discussion, we talked about different ways to address this issue and there were a variety of suggestions. There was a lot of discussion around targeting first year students, but we could not decide how to do this since first years are hard to reach and undergoing a lot of transition as they adapt to a new learning environment, living arrangement, being away from home, etc.

        

Overall, the discussion changed my definition of community since a lot of topics were brought up that I had not previously considered. I was able to see how my childhood and university involvement has developed my sense of community and how the same thing has happened for the other peers.

I believe we agreed that because students are transient, the individuals that live in the community full-time get tired of having to incorporate students and eventually stop trying and the students do not bother to try. This creates a cycle of a broken sense of community and an individualistic mindset. We have to continue to try and get people to develop a collectivist mindset so students and Guelph members can create a cohesive community where everyone is a contributing member.

 By: Allana McComb

 

Comments:

Hello Allana,

Thanks so much for sharing the key points of your discussion.

Indeed, it is such a challenge for students to feel ownership and responsibility when it comes to community-building... this topic has arisen many times on this site, already.

I think your point about having first years take the lead is interesting... I would suspect it might be more effective if upper years model this behaviour. I just recently graduated from the University of Waterloo and stayed at Conrad Grebel, a Mennonite collge on campus, for my four years of study. Something Grebel does, which is unique to all other housing across campus, they keep a 50/50 ratio of upper years to first years. The college believes that the upper years have such influence over the experience and perceptions of those in first year.

I see this example as tangible to campus as a whole: it's those who have been there for a year or more, who have had time to "grow up," adjust to a new environment, etc- that need to be modeling what it looks like to be a university student and be an active community member at the same time.

What are your thoughts?

Mentorship

I really like this idea Rachel.  i know last year when i worked as the students rep to the community at UoG I pushed ard for residents to see themselves as role models for students who were at a very important time in their life where they were learning what it meant to be part of a neighbourhood community.  It was a difficult sell since many residence are tired of doing this thankless mentoring every year.  Its exhausting.

I remember in this conversation we also talked a lot about setting a culture of respect for students when they come to school.  And doing so in a positive light.  Highlighting that this University is well respected by the community because students care about their neighbours, welcome to this community!!

I think upper year students can play a big role in helping set this culture.