Radford University students are encouraged to continue conversations with their professors, mentors and advisors beyond the classroom through a new program called Highlander Chats.
During the first full week of every month, students can invite a faculty or staff member of their choice to dine with them for free at Dalton Dining Hall. Over a shared meal, students will pick their guest's brain about class assignments and projects, talk post-graduate plans or ask for career advice.
No topic is off the table.
The concept behind Highlander Chats derived from a discussion between faculty members and representatives of the Dean of Students and University Services offices during which they brainstormed opportunities for students to connect with their mentors outside the confines of the lab, studio or set office hours.
"We call it 'off-the-books' advising," said Sara O'Brien, associate professor of biology, who helped steer the new outreach. "We want to create a community of inclusion for all of our students and foster a welcoming environment so that we [faculty] are more approachable."
In addition to meaningful connections between faculty and students, retention is an important goal of the program, O'Brien said.
Studies show engaging students through better faculty/staff-student interaction bolsters retention and academic success for a diverse set of students.
To track the success of the program, all Highlander Chats participants will be sent a brief follow-up survey and focus group invitation to share feedback.
Students or their guests can obtain a Highlander Chats ticket from the Hurlbert Student Center information desk. Both participants must complete the ticket information.
For more information on the program, visit the RU Dining Services website or call the Dean of Students office at 540-831-6297.