“A Conversation that Matters” provided an opportunity for students to share their opinions and concerns to create a better connection with Ferris faculty.
On Sept. 29, about 40 students and administrative members attended a Zoom conference to acknowledge how students are feeling this semester. Ferris wanted to develop a way for students to reach out to the faculty in order to have important conversations.
Dr. David Pilgrim, the vice president for Diversity and Inclusion, led this dialogue. He asked the students questions about why they attended Ferris, how Ferris is performing as an institution, and how students are feeling overall.
Pilgrim acknowledged that college campuses have difficulties finding ways to have hard discussions in a manner that is civil, mature and productive.
“Whatever we can do that gives students an opportunity to have their voices heard by the administration, we should be doing,” Pilgrim said.
A common theme that came up between the students who attended the meeting was the feeling of loneliness on campus. Students expressed how they felt isolated from others and didn’t know if there were any events to participate in or RSOs to join.
Faculty members then made a collective effort to provide information and resources to these students so that they could combat these negative emotions.
“Just from the meeting today, I have already had three people reach out to me, willing to introduce me to new things, and programs and just to have a talk with me,” liberal arts freshman Sorrell Dean said. “This is amazing and shows me that the community at this school will be great for the next years until graduation.”
Students also expressed that dialogues like “A Conversation that Matters” should have been happening a long time ago.
Ferris tried to create a platform for these difficult conversations a few years ago. There used to be a session called “Bulldogs Unmuzzled” where students trained to facilitate hard discussions helped others to engage in on-campus dialogue. This lasted about four or five years until students lost interest.
“If we can get [students] on board, where they believe in what we’re trying to do, then I think that they can help us drive this,” Pilgrim said.
Some of the students who gave their opinions during the meeting were pleasantly surprised that Ferris made another attempt to reach out to students.
Haley McBride is a fifth-year communications studies student who appreciated the efforts the administration is trying to make.
“I think it is very important for students and faculty to have these conversations because it helps gain perspective on both sides, which is vital to create positive change to benefit every aspect of campus life,” McBride said. “I think if they keep up with students’ needs and take them into consideration, it will always have a positive effect and lead to a community that actively benefits both faculty and students.”
It was important to Pilgrim that Ferris encourages that students’ thoughts are necessary. They do not want students to feel like they must be silent.
Robert Palmer is a criminal justice freshman who highlighted the significance of students having a louder voice for the administration to hear.
“I think it is important because we are talking about student life, and without the students you are making changes on someone else’s behalf, without their say,” Palmer said. “This is especially true for college students. We, the students, are all adults. If an administration wants to make changes, then it is our right, as adults to have a say.”
Ferris plans on hosting more conversations like this one in order to build better relationships, trust, and understanding with the students.