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How to engage students on a small campus

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When building an audience at a university, and especially when focusing on student engagement, it is important to have buy-in from three groups: administration, faculty, and students. Each of these groups have a unique set of skills, requirements, and challeges that you must face.


The administration of a university are very important when looking at long term goals for your UIF organization on campus. By bringing the administration on board your ideas, you can develop a lasting relationship that can provide support for far-reaching goals, like the ones needed to engage with students.

For example, Daricia Wilkinson & Ykeshia Zamore, UIF Fellows from UVI, put on a hackathon that impressed the president of their university so much that he decided to fund an innovation center. This innovation center helped to spread the message of entrepreneurship within the student body, allowing students another way to engage in the entrepreneurial vision of their school.


The faculty of a university are very good in the determination of short term goals for a university, and can help your UIF organization connect with students who are interested in innovation. At a small unviersity in particular, the faculty have a more personal relation with their students, which can lead to the faculty being a good way to spread the message of what it is you do.


Of course, when trying to engage students on a small campus, the most important group to interact with are the students themselves. In a smaller school, there i a very real familial aspect to student life, and face-to-face meetings are a good way to get engaged with some students. You can use these preliminary face-to-face meeting to determine what students see as issues, and what misconceptions you may need to help fix.


There are a lot of barriers that can be faced when dealing with a small campus. The campus may be made up of different types of students- traditional, non-traditional, international. With each type of student there becomes a different set of challenges. As a whole the overall the largest challenges that are faced are getting students to understand that I&E is interdisciplinary, changing the mindset of student to allow them to realize the importance, and getting students to prioritize I&E into their daily routine. There are a handful of students that have a misconception about I&E that it is only for business students. They are unaware of how important it is in their daily life and particular in their field of study. Students say there is a lack of time on their part so I&E must be worked into their schedule so they are still able to take part in it. When asking students why they are not involved they do not think I&E is “fun” so it must be engaging and exciting for them.


We know actions speak louder than words. So in order to get students on a small campus involved, it is important to engage them into impact oriented activities best fitted to their interests. Here are some of the ways to engage interdisciplinary students and instill the idea and importance of innovation and entrepreneurship:

Ideation Workshop

In an Ideation Workshop, you brainstorm and generate lots and lots of ideas (and eventually find the ideal solution to problems, of course) on a certain topic. On a small campus, the workshop will work best if it addresses a common issue shared by interdisciplinary students. It can have a general theme like problems on campus or higher education, and address questions like how to improve the classroom experience on your campus, or how to design your undergraduate degree to help you achieve your ideal career. It can be based on product creation as well, such as redesigning your backpack or wallet. This workshop not only helps students acknowledge the potential within themselves to generate with brilliant ideas, but also helps them realize the importance of coming up with innovative solutions to the most pressing problems in today’s world.

Design Thinking Workshop

In a Design Thinking Workshop, you address a problem, generate possible solutions to it, as well as prototype and test your solution. As difficult as it may seem, it is possible to accomplish this within your small campus, and that is exactly the mindset that the students should be empowered with at the end of the workshop. Once again, the workshop will work best if it addresses a common problem faced by interdisciplinary students.

Here are some resources to make the workshop successful:


First and foremost, the key is empathy. The best way to engage students on a small campus is to understand the core of the problem on your campus, and address the needs of the students at your college/university. The closer you get to the core of the problem, the easier it will be for you to solve it!

Written By:

Minashsha Zareel Lamisa, Thomas Haynie, Grace Piper, Alexander Rumsey, and Ryan Mason.