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Five Coastal Carolina students stand behind a table during the spring 2024 organizational kickoff day event.

To promote campus engagement and belonging, Coastal Carolina University established an honor society for highly engaged students. Each semester, an Organizational Kickoff Day highlights the many ways students can get involved.

Coastal Carolina University

A fall 2023 Student Voice survey by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse found one-third of students spend no time weekly on extracurricular activities on campus, and half spend between one to five hours weekly participating in co-curriculars. Among those who do not participate in campus activities weekly, 24 percent are somewhat or very dissatisfied with their involvement in campus life.

Leaders at Coastal Carolina University launched the Pathway 1954 program, named after the institution’s founding year, last fall to highlight co-curricular experiences at the institution and connect them to the university’s strategic plan.

Upper-level students who complete 25 Pathway experiences can join an honors society of student leaders, Society 1954, to benefit their job search after graduation.

Drawing the map: Yvonne Hernandez Friedman, vice president for student affairs at Coastal Carolina, saw a need for increased student engagement when she joined the institution two years ago. Hernandez Friedman recognized a disconnect between how students got involved on campus and the availability of information about campus involvement, with many students overwhelmed by the possibilities.

She’s also a strong proponent of creating co-curricular transcripts to highlight a students’ involvement outside the classroom as a useful tool for landing an internship or job after graduation. But that process, too, can be anxiety-inducing for students who don’t know where to start.

Hernandez Friedman, alongside her team, developed the Pathway 1954 program to help guide uninvolved students and credential the highly involved.

Walking Old Paths

While Pathway 1954 is new to Coastal Carolina, VP for Student Affairs Yvonne Hernandez Friedman implemented a similar initiative at her previous institution, drawing from the expertise of other institutions that use Anthology software for event management.

For other administrators looking to create a similar program, Hernandez Friedman encourages them to partner with their vendor or other institutions using the same vendor to learn from them. “There’s no need to recreate wheels here,” Hernandez Friedman says, as many of the same principles can be tailored to a university’s student population.

Charting a course: To fulfill the Pathway 1954 curriculum, students must complete three core experiences and two electives in five competency areas:

  1. Life design: promoting leadership, career development, diversity, equity and inclusion;
  2. Spirits and traditions: instilling a sense of belonging, pride and understanding of CCU traditions and community;
  3. Wellness: teaching a holistic and positive approach to self-care, with a focus on physical and emotional well-being;
  4. Civic engagement: emphasizing active membership in the community, connecting with local, state, national and global communities;
  5. Personal development: discovering personal strengths and values through new experiences.

The five competencies directly relate to the newly finished CCU strategic plan and reflect the institution’s mission of a holistic student experience, Hernandez Friedman says.

Future experiences can be recorded through students’ Coastal Connections event pass or student ID, connected to the university’ Anthology platform for event management. Students can also self-submit previous event attendance or participation to be reviewed by the student organizations and leadership team. The pathway is entirely self-paced, giving students flexibility in timing and the events they attend.

Hernandez Friedman anticipates it will take students between two and three years to fulfill all 25 experiences. While some events, like attending a career fair, can be completed in an afternoon, others, such as participating in a club sport or holding a leadership position, require longer investment.

Chart giving an overview of the five competencies in the Pathway 1954 plan

Once students fulfill the requirements, they are eligible to be inducted into the 1954 Society. Induction depends on which semester students complete the competencies. Society members will receive special graduation regalia, including an insignia lapel pin.

Preparing the path: Pathway 1954 officially rolled out in August. All student affairs events are now categorized by the five competencies, so students just have to scan in to an event to earn Pathway credit.

In fall 2023 alone, 1,434 student events and meetings were logged into the Coastal Connections website, hosted on Anthology, and 18,490 student check-ins have been logged. Around 57 continuing students are close to being inducted into the society.

Getting institutional buy-in has been one challenge, Hernandez Friedman explains. Many curricular experiences can count toward a student’s Pathway completion, but identifying them and partnering with faculty or staff members responsible to get them into the digital system requires additional assistance.

As the initiative scales, university leaders plan to use Pathway 1954 as a way to highlight the value of getting plugged in to co-curricular activities and the connection to career readiness.

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