August 19, 2020

Your Syllabus Matters: Creating a Sense of Belonging on Day 1

Room: LSB 133


The pandemic shown a light on the importance of students having a sense of belonging, which research shows is an important indicator of student success. However our syllabi can unintentionally signal "you don't belong" to some of our students. In this presentation, we will discuss ways we can change our course syllabi to better serve as a welcome mat for students, particularly first-generation and historically minoritized students. Relying on the work done in the Student Experience Project, participants will learn about evidence-based changes they can make to their syllabi, with particular focus on "low-lift" changes that can be made in just minutes, to better help students start course with a sense of belonging and self-efficacy. In particular, we will focus on ways the syllabus can more effectively communicate care, a growth mindset, and information about resources. In addition, we will identify small changes that can be made to better value diversity.
For faculty who are interested in doing more than these "low-lift" changes, we will introduce them to the Student Experience Project's First-Day Toolkit so they can do a deeper dive on their own.

*Participants will learn how to make your syllabus more welcoming, will leave with specific changes you can make to your syllabi to better create a sense of belonging for your students, and will understand how to access the SEP's First-Day Toolkit for other syllabi ideas.

Lisa GabbertHarrison Kleiner

Associate Professor, Associate Vice Provost

Harrison Kleiner is an Associate Professor of Philosophy, Associate Vice Provost for General Education, and Director of the Liberal Arts Program at Utah State University. Harrison teaches across the curriculum in philosophy at Utah State, teaching and writing on issues in philosophy, theology, political thought, the great books, and liberal arts education. He leads institutional efforts in curricular and assessment reform in the first-year experience and general education and consults regionally and nationally with faculty involved with general education and on issues around excellence in teaching and learning.

Heidi Kesler

Lisa Gabbert

Position Title Director of Student Retention & Completion

Heidi Beck Kesler earned a BS in History from Utah State University and an MA in History from Montana State University. Much of her undergraduate and graduate research focused on the power of education in the lives of marginalized and disenfranchised populations. She has an earnest belief in and commitment to the empowering impact of education. She worked for ten years in USU's Registrar's Office as Assistant Registrar, Associate Registrar, and Interim Registrar before leaving in 2006. From 2006 to 2014 she worked as an independent Enrollment Management Consultant for Jacksonville State University and BYU-Idaho in addition to being a caregiver, room mother, and middle school teacher. In 2014 she returned to USU as the director of Student Retention & Completion within the Student Achievement Collaborative.

Janet Anderson

Lisa Gabbert

Vice Provost and Associate Vice President

Janet Anderson works both as a Vice Provost and Assistant Vice President at Utah State University. Her reporting units include University and Exploratory Advising, the Career Design Center, Student Orientation and Transition Services, and Retention and Completion. She chairs the Student Achievement Collaborative, a group of professionals who work on student success and retention initiatives. She recently ended her 28 year tenure teaching in the Dietetics program, where she earned the rank of Professional Practice Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences. She has received numerous teaching awards, most notably the USU Robins Awards Professor of the Year and the USDA Food and Agriculture Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award.