University oriented around the student journey: How TWU faculty and staff work together to support students through a Connected Campus

“It’s the student journey that’s the most important thing: how can you organize everything you do, in and around the journey of that student.”
 
— Brian Kerr, SVP of Enrolment, Personal and Professional Development


TWU faculty and staff are implementing ways to work more inter-connectedly to serve students living and studying in Canada and from around the world.​

During the pandemic emergency, a new level of collaboration evolved. The best lessons and strategies learned in the past 18 months have now been adopted permanently into TWU’s Connected Campus initiative.

Summer of rapid innovation

This is how Trinity Western demonstrated creativity during crisis.

It started with a virtual TWU Live preview event attended by over a thousand guests, a rapid shift to online learning, and 50 TWU people who committed to making 15,000 care calls by phone to students, during the course of one summer.
 

It was March 2020, and a global pandemic had brought an abrupt change to the Spring semester.

Brian Kerr, SVP of Enrolment, Personal and Professional Development, recalls watching TWU students vacating campus dormitories and traveling home, two months prior to the semester's end.

“They were moving all over Canada,” he said, “They were, in fact, moving all over the world. Now we have about 5,000 students that are scattered across the globe.”
 

TWU faced both a challenge and an opportunity.

“We needed a way to ensure that students remained well-connected to the campus, [even as] they were quickly dispersed around the globe,” said Kerr.

The University's challenge: How can TWU develop systems and infrastructure for a dispersed campus and student community?

Ingenuity in a time of crisis

Kerr, who has spent almost 20 years at TWU working with students and families, knew that what TWU students needed was tailored care and attention – and TWU people to reach out and provide that care.

“We immediately created an ad hoc team of relationship managers,” said Kerr.

People from all across campus, with various expertise and experiences, were recruited. Administrators in campus housing, financial aid experts, student ministry leaders, learning coaches, and more – came together, bringing data and information from their various departments, while integrating their resources.


“The seed was planted that if we were to view things differently – as a connected campus – and doing things together as a whole, great things can happen.”


Throughout the summer, TWU people worked cross-departmentally in a “team-of-teams” manner, to collaborate, create solutions, and provide the help students needed to succeed in their studies and stay engaged with University life.

A specialized calling team of 50 people also called all of Trinity Western’s 5,000 students at least three times – resulting in 15,000 calls to show care, ask about student needs, and assure students that TWU is supportive of their academic journey.  

As a result of TWU’s strong collaborative efforts throughout the summer, and thanks to God's grace, TWU received its largest-ever enrolment in Fall 2020.

Kerr knew that whatever was happening last summer in terms of cross-campus collaboration and innovation, it needed to continue on.
 

He describes the shift in campus culture:

“The seed was planted that if we were to view things differently – as a connected campus – and doing things together as a whole, great things can happen.”

Campus re-oriented around the student journey

Kerr returns to the initial challenge that sparked the changes at TWU. “When students were on campus, the student could navigate across departments, but now that students were spread across the globe, we had to find ways to ensure that we were more connected as a University,” he said.


“We took this idea and expanded it throughout the University to fundamentally change our jobs, how we view our role, how we connect our systems, our policies and our procedures – not around our departmental needs and our departmental goals, but rather, in light of the overall journey that a student is going on.”


Faced with this challenge, TWU people prioritized the students.

“[It’s about] How can you re-orient your perspective from the view of our students? It’s the student journey that’s the most important thing: how can you organize everything you do, in and around the journey of that student.”

The idea is to fundamentally position the University around focusing on the success of the learners.


"Connected Campus creates opportunity for working together, and empowers staff and faculty to provide student-facing experience."


Kerr and his team are now launching the Connected Campus as a University-wide initiative, one that supports the new vision of Trinity Western: Every graduate is equipped to think truthfully, act justly, and live faithfully for the good of the world and the glory of God.
 

Reaching for a common point on the horizon

Kerr recaps how the new vision establishes a unified direction for the University. “As an institution, our common point is ‘every graduate equipped,'" he said.

He invites TWU people to imagine with him, “What possibilities may exist if we pay different attention to our systems and processes and the way we function together as a staff and faculty in service to our students?”

Kerr says that the purpose of the Connected Campus is to provide resources for TWU people to do their job more effectively, and to have the information and resources they need in order to support the University’s direction.


“How can we be better integrated (in our efforts) around the entire student journey?”


The Connected Campus leads to strengthening the University's infrastructure so that TWU can live out its vision. 

Under the Connected Campus initiative, there are a number of strategies already in progress, including a University strategic planning process, a new Centre for Calling and Career Development, and a new TWU Alumni and Families department.
 

Fostering a consistent relationship throughout a student’s journey

TWU’s vision is focused on students' success and their journey at TWU. This is a journey that continues even beyond graduation, as graduates become alumni and professionals in the marketplace.

“We recognize that it’s a continuous cycle,” said Kerr, “The journey that a student is on is what we’re trying to facilitate and to equip, as an entire University.”

This task is not without hurdles, however. As Kerr describes, “The challenge is that we have a multitude of departments that all play a critical role in the student’s journey. No one department owns, or has the ability to satisfy, the entire student journey.”

That is where the Connected Campus comes in, helping to network resources and share data, and providing a common digital platform for TWU people.
 

Highly motivated to serve students well

Kerr knows that, when it comes to serving students, TWU people are highly motivated.

“There is a really strong desire across the University to serve well,” said Kerr.

“How can we be better integrated (in our efforts) around the entire student journey? Connected Campus creates opportunity for working together, and empowers staff and faculty to provide student-facing experience,” he said.

There are many different departments who support students, and they all need line of sight into students’ entire journey. As a digital platform, the Connected Campus serves to link all these areas of service together.

Kerr explains, “When a student comes to the University and moves through their journey, we can’t possibly predict all of the people they are going to come into interaction with, all of their activities and departments that are going to play a meaningful role in this student’s journey.”

“Each student is going to navigate this (journey) in a slightly different way. What we are able to provide, is a system that networks all of these areas together… in order to serve the student well,” he said, referring to the Connected Campus.


"...That’s where the Connected Campus program comes in – to help people understand their jobs in a new way, to begin to shift culture across the institution, (in order) to focus on the journey of the individual…and also to do our individual roles to the utmost of excellence.”


Not only does the Connected Campus serve students, but it supports TWU faculty and staff as well.

“We are providing departments awareness into what each other is doing. Connected Campus works to integrate our work around the student journey,” said Kerr.
 

How the Connected Campus changes the way we work

The Connected Campus also helps faculty and staff know when a student may need immediate help. “We’ll be able to see when a student’s grade starts to drop a little bit, and when their engagement in student life and other activities starts to wane,” said Kerr.

"That may be an indicator for TWU people to come alongside that student in a more intentional way, to ensure that the student is connecting well, and that the student continues to thrive during their time at University," Kerr explained.

In this way, the Connected Campus pulls together information from a variety of areas on campus, in order to benefit the student, for the success of the student’s overall journey.

Kerr goes on to emphasize, “The Connected Campus is more than just technology. It’s more than just a software platform.”

He says, “What we’re doing is using this (platform) to address that intersection between technology, people, data and process. And where those things insect…that’s where the Connected Campus program comes in – to help people understand their jobs in a new way, to begin to shift culture across the institution, (in order) to focus on the journey of the individual…and also to do our individual roles to the utmost of excellence.”


See also — Hope told through the lives of alumni: Clement Wee's vision as VP of TWU Alumni and Families:​
 
TWU News


 About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has four campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, and Ottawa. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

For media inquiries, please contact: media@twu.ca

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