I spent a good chunk of my day on Saturday talking to potential freshmen at a fair for newly admitted students. When I spoke to the incoming science students about applying for [Program], I always highlighted the impact on grades, retention in the sciences and participation rates in undergraduate research programs. The students would nod, probably overwhelmed with all the information and opportunities they’d learned about. The students perked up when I introduced them to current students and alumni helping us outreach. “How did [Program] benefit you?” I asked one of the volunteers.
All 10 students who volunteered throughout the day answered the same. It wasn’t grades and research was secondary even though they’re all in labs and some are going on to grad school in the fall. Nope, they all stressed the great friendships they developed with other [Program] students.
I love working with [Program], but at this point I don’t expect many surprises. Each year we do the same thing, it’s just a different set of students. I was wrong. I know our students develop friendships in the program. That makes sense since they spend several hours a week together and have a lot in common. We measure a lot of things and evaluate all aspects of the programs, but I don’t recall ever asking about friendships developed through [Program]. The researcher in me wants to study this and interview our students. The student affairs practitioner in me feels like we’re doing something right.