NORFOLK, Neb. – Since its establishment nearly 50-years ago, Northeast Community College has been diligent in meeting the needs of its students, especially those who are beginning their higher education journey. The first week of school can be chaotic as students transition into a routine that consists of attending classes, getting their questions answered on college life and making new friends. This year, Northeast has initiated a new endeavor that ensures students integrate into the culture of college with the assistance of everyone on campus.
“Becoming a Hawk,” a program named after the College mascot, began earlier this summer with New Student Registration (NSR) sessions. Historically, new student activities were planned and carried out as stand-alone events. However, Shelley Lammers, dean of student success, said as staff members were preparing for face-to-face sessions this summer, they went back to strategic planning that had been done during the pandemic that has allowed students to understand that enrolling and becoming a college student is a process, not necessarily an event.
“I went to our Marketing team and said ‘Okay we're trying to tie these two things together.’ And they took our initial concept and said, ‘Why don't we just really expand it and include much more than that.’ We wanted to keep all of the best things we did last year as we moved back to our more traditional models.”
In addition to NSR, the Becoming a Hawk initiative includes a series of Hawk Help Days which specifically engage staff with students on a walk-in basis to answer any last-minute details. The days have been promoted heavily with sophomore students as some of them have never been on Northeast’s campus as COVID-19 limited the number of freshmen who had in-person classes last year.
A new student move-in day, to be held a few days prior to the beginning of classes, will include the entire Northeast community who will be invited to volunteer to help move students into the residence halls on the Norfolk campus. And Fall Orientation, normally held on Sunday - the day before the start of classes - has been moved back to the previous Friday.
“Because (faculty and staff) are all here, the whole campus is here” Lammers said, “and it's not just a handful of people helping; the entire campus community is going to be involved in this.”
A non-credit online orientation class for all new students, first introduced in 2020, will be also held again this year. Assignments in the course include students utilizing their Northeast account to access their schedules, financial aid information, completing a career exploration assessment, and how to use student email, among others.
Once students get settled, they will have a number of activities each day during the Week of Welcome - also known as WOW - that allows for social interaction with their peers.
Lammers said they will also make sure that similar types of events will be held when possible at the College’s extended campuses in O’Neill, South Sioux and West Point for students who attend at those locations.
“We have also created a series of events that will run through the first semester that deepens and emphasizes the connections that we have with the students. Our hope is that it demonstrates to them that they have support here and that we will help them navigate their journey while they are with us,” she said. “We’re really saying to students that, ‘This is the beginning of your college journey with us.’”
Furthermore, Becoming a Hawk targets more than students. A conscious effort has been made to include families in on-campus sessions that have been held both in-person and virtually this summer.
Lammers said, “It was more of engaging the parents in the process of them becoming Hawk parents. So, it hasn’t only been staff; we engaged our parents in a way that was also promoting the idea that, ‘You're turning them over to us and here's what we have in place to take care of them.’ So, we told parents that when their child comes seeking help from them to point them back to us and we will take care of them.”
A new academic year is new beginning for all students. While it is a time of anxiety, it can also be full of opportunities. Lammers said each student - new or returning, non-traditional or early college (high school) - have many opportunities to succeed at Northeast Community College.
“I want students to show up and be ready to be college students on the first day of classes. That has always been my objective this time of year - that they're ready to go, be excited and succeed while they are with us. I want them to move from enrollment to attendance to graduation - that's my goal. That's always my goal.”