Introducing CLDE to New Students through Community Partnerships

Dr. Brett Bruner, Director of Transition & Student Conduct, Fort Hays State University

May 11, 2017

The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (2012) described the mission of new student orientation programs is to “facilitate the transition of new students into the institution; prepare students for the institution’s educational opportunities and student responsibility; [and] initiate the integration of new students into the intellectual, cultural, and social climate of the institution” (p. 374). Working at an institution that values and remains committed to civic learning and democratic engagement (CLDE), the new student orientation and transition staff members at Fort Hays State University knew that we wanted to intentionally introduce new students to CLDE principles and how they could remain connected to CLDE opportunities throughout their time as a student. Thus, began the development of the multiple new student transition strategies focused on CLDE including the Golden Beginnings Pre-Orientation Program: Project Serve (a 48-hour, pre-fall orientation service immersion experience), the Big Day Out Orientation Service Project & Reflection during Tiger Impact Fall Orientation Weekend, CLDE as a core component of the First 40 Days at Fort Hays (welcome weeks) engagement strategies, and infusion of CLDE into Week 8 of the UNIV 101 Freshman Seminar course.

As each of these initiatives began to be developed over the past three years, the new student orientation and transition programs staff cultivated and then stewarded community partners if were to truly embody and model the CLDE principles to our new students.  Eddy’s (2010) concept of partnership capital was realized as early adopters of the Project Serve pre-orientation service immersion experience came on board from year 1.  The Arc of the Central Plains was the early adopter of this program to engage students in direct service as well as post-event reflection on how engaging with the community benefits the greater good of society. The campus new student orientation and transition programs staff continued to steward this community partnership throughout the subsequent two years, resulting in many of the characteristics Eddy identified of organizations who have achieved partnership capital, namely “mutual interests, common goals, and shared the meaning of language” (p. 49).

The campus new student orientation and transition staff sought to further introduce CLDE concepts to the remaining 800+ new students through the First 40 Days at Fort Hays (welcome weeks) programming. To effectively engage eight times as many students as the Project Serve program over 6 weeks meant that community partnerships were key to be developed.  Staff sought to intentionally cultivate these partnerships in the earlies days of the program. Since then, it has been imperative for campus staff to move beyond the simplest stages of Kezar and Lester’s (2009) model for collaborative context; we had built commitment and had multiple community partners engaging new students in CLDE experiences throughout the first 40 days of classes. Now, we must continue to steward these partnerships as we listen to and sustain our own commitment to these experiences. Through the engagement of these simple strategies learned from the literature, one campus has partnered with many community organizations to introduce multiple strategies to not only welcome new students to the campus and local communities but also introduce them to CLDE engagement opportunities that can become a part of their college and citizen-leader identities.


Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2012). Orientation programs: CAS standards and guidelines. In D. Mitstifer (Ed.), CAS professional standards for higher education (pp. 374-381). Washington, DC: Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.

Eddy, P.L. (2010). Partnerships and collaborations in higher education. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Periodicals, Inc., ASHE Higher Education Report.

Kezar, A.J. & Lester, J. (2009). Organizing higher education for collaboration: A guide for campus leaders. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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