St. Lawrence College shares more with the classic TV-show bar Cheers (ask your Mom) than just being run by a silver-haired fox. Driven by its newest strategic pillar, belonging, the campuses of St. Lawrence College are someplace where it’s very possible everybody knows your name.
When I first came to St. Lawrence College I did so as a mature student, and as a late enrollee. I joined my program on the 8th day of classes, having applied somewhat on a whim on the Friday after Labour Day. When I walked up to my first class on my first day I was a ball of nerves. I had emailed the prof and told her I would be joining the class, and she met me outside the classroom, said hello and said come on in “we’re just rock and roll”. And that’s what I did.
Before the end of the year, I was awarded the “Connector of the Class” award by the faculty, and a Spirit award by my peers that, for the first time in 39 years was awarded to only one student in my year because both my section and the section I wasn’t even in, had voted for me.
Such is the atmosphere of St. Lawrence College that a mature student can seamlessly join the college community – late – and hit the ground running. In three years my age has come up once, and it’s one of the funniest stories of my time at SLC (the punchline is, “so, like, the oldest person in the program, probably?”)
As a smaller school the campuses of SLC have the feeling of a village where, when walking through the common space such as the cafeteria or the lobby, you can easily see faces you recognize day after day. Through attending events like basketball games, or movie nights, or clubs day, you meet your fellow students, learn their names, and make new friends. During Games in the Lobby I met a student from the tech wing – clear across the campus from where most of my classes take place – who has become a good friend that I talk to all the time; mostly to remind him how badly I destroy him at Spirit Pong that one time.
Recognizing belonging as a strategic pillar is huge, and while the practice of being a welcoming and inclusive place clearly predated the strategy, it can only lead to bigger and better things for equity, diversity, and inclusion on campus. A college can boast massive program offerings, labs filled with bleeding-edge technology, and graduate hiring rates through the roof, but none of that matters if its students are marginalized or miserable. Happy students are students that want to learn and want to stay, that’s both good for the students and good for the business.
When choosing a college you want to go someplace where you will learn, where you will have fun, and where you will make memories that will last a lifetime. When choosing a college you want one where your fellow students, the staff, and the faculty smile when they greet you in the hall – or on an MS Teams call. When choosing a college you want one with a rich student life aimed at helping you make friends and building connections.
When choosing a college you want to go where they’re always glad you came.