By Brittany Salsman
If you’re like me, when you have a new friend visit your home, you go into a fury of cleaning, straightening, putting away, and cleaning again to make sure you leave a positive impression. I make sure that I have food and drink options in case they haven’t eaten or are thirsty and that movies and games are readily available in case they want to engage in more than simple chit chat. More often than not, an item on a shelf or a picture frame prompts questions or conversation that carries us through our visit. In a sense, I allow my home to do the speaking for me.
To students, our office is the equivalent of our home. So I ask you, what story does your office tell? Take a moment to leave your office and re-enter it as if you were a student. Do you feel welcome? If you had a different belief system, would you still feel welcome? How about a different gender or sexual orientation? If you were a different race or ethnicity? What if you were 20 again? How are you welcoming students with disabilities?
Many of our students study abroad. If you have traveled, do you have mementos or pictures that you can exchange stories about? The books on your shelf…are they for work or would they peak a student’s interest enough that they would want to borrow one and engage in conversation after they’ve read it?
Building rapport and trust with students goes beyond the words you exchange and support you can lend. It is about making the student feel comfortable in a different space (and sometimes in a difficult conversation). The environment you create in your office has an impact on the ability to relate to students. Are students leaving your home with a positive impression?
Brittany is the Interim Assistant Director of Campus Activities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org