Southern Adventist University’s annual All-Night Softball Tournament at the beginning of October was a huge hit. While there was plenty of action on the field to watch, there was also a lot going on behind the scenes as students and faculty interacted with one another outside the traditional classroom setting.
These connections took place in a variety of ways: some faculty played on student-led teams, some faculty had their own teams playing against students, and even more faculty and students came together as spectators. All-night softball is a great example of how the intramural program is leading the charge to create a community atmosphere through increased faculty-student connections.
JP Mathis, dean of Southern Village, sees real value in this type of deliberate engagement. To that end, she was one of more than 30 Southern faculty and staff who participated in intramural athletics last year.
“I think it makes me more approachable when a student knows me better,” Mathis said.
Krista Hunt, a senior mathematics major, enjoys the opportunity to play with faculty in intramurals. Her experiences validate Mathis’ thoughts.
“It really helps us to see that they have a life beyond their jobs,” Krista said.
But sports are not the only option for this type of growth. There are also club events that involve sponsors and other creative ways that faculty builds stronger, more personal relationships with students. Harold Mayer, a professor in the School of P.E., Health and Wellness has been going on camping trips with the Wellness Club and organizing ski trips for students over the past several years. But his involvement doesn’t end there.
“I have soup dinners for students at my house all the time, usually on Friday nights. We eat and have vespers together,” Mayer said. “It’s important that we [faculty] make an effort to build these relationships.”
This sentiment is shared throughout all levels of administration. The strategic planning committee, led by President Gordon Bietz, just passed a motion to offer free lunches to faculty and staff during the school week if they eat at one of the four food venues on campus (KR’s Place, Campus Kitchen, The Kayak, Dining Hall).
“It is our desire for students and faculty to get to know one another better, which ultimately builds a community atmosphere,” Bietz said.
Alexandra Tesheira, a sophomore allied health major, saw firsthand the fruits of this new policy at a recent meal in the Dining Hall.
“A religion professor sat down by my friends and I and asked us how we were doing,” Alexandra said. “He showed a genuine interest and it felt good to realize that the professors actually want to get to know us!"