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Student Experience Initiative lauded for innovative student consultation process

October 15, 2020
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An initiative to improve student experience at SFU has received international recognition for its innovative student consultation efforts.  

Each year, International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Canada presents the Core Values Awards to organizations that raise the bar in the field of public participation. The awards are founded on the principle that people affected by a decision have the right to be consulted on the decision and to know how their input affected the outcome. This year, SFU's Student Experience Initiative (SEI) focus area for Building Community and Sense of Belonging (BCSB) won the Honourable Mention Award for Creativity, Contribution and Innovation in the Field for its Peer Idea Activator student consultation project.

The BCSB working group partnered with 13 campus groups and engaged 12 trained student facilitators who led more than 30 idea generation sessions, reaching nearly 2,200 students across all campuses.

Peer Idea Activators Yu-Chen Lim, Rachel Tong, Jocelle Refol, research assistant Bonita Nath with student development educators Precious Ile and Helena Fehr share the student consultation findings at the SFU Building Community and Belonging Forum earlier in 2020

“Building Community and Sense of Belonging aims to provide a positive, healthy and exciting environment in which students learn and thrive,” says Laya Behbahani, director of SFU’s Student Experience Initiative.

“Focusing on building a sense of community among SFU students, BCSB actively centered students and directly involved them in the idea generation process to create a welcoming, safe, equitable, and inclusive environment at SFU, starting from the ground up.”

A unique aspect of BCSB’s Peer Idea Activator program was its grassroots feel in creating a sense of community on campus: with students, by students.

From interviews at the campus fire pits and games lounge, idea jams with undergraduate and graduate classes, lounge conversations at various campus centres, social media discussions and idea submission form, student facilitators found fun and creative ways to engage with students and create exciting new ideas.

The judges were impressed with the great use of existing assets and partnerships with campus groups, inclusive and customized student engagement, and intentional building of relationships and trust. The judges noted, “This is the best and clearest expression of the synergy between principles of engagement and how bringing them to life in practice achieves trust in the process.”

The BCSB working group has acted on student feedback and implemented several collaborative projects, including building 10 custom fire pits which feature Indigenous artwork; five mural mosaic projects; and more than 7,500 participants at the Surrey Games Lounge.

“It was a great way to build community…our sense of community and belonging increased at SFU as a direct result of our participation,” says one student facilitator.

Says another, “Brainstorming for better sense of communities for students is enjoyable in that it is building a sense of community within itself.”

Peer Idea Activators Yu-Chen Lim, Rachel Tong, Jocelle Refol, research assistant Bonita Nath with student development educators Precious Ile and Helena Fehr share the student consultation findings at the SFU Building Community and Belonging Forum earlier in 2020.