Culture binds organizations and their members together. It’s present in every community, including colleges and universities. Culture has to be communicated well in order for a college or university to express who they are. That clear communication also allows them to effectively show what they offer, and why it matters in this rapidly changing world.
The pandemic has created a challenge in communicating culture. It urged some students and families to consider a gap year or alternate pathways. Indeed, with all of us stuck at home, our sense of community has changed. Students found it harder to concentrate and stay in classes. Professors had to switch to virtual lessons on such a short notice. Though helpful, online classes could’ve affected a college’s or university’s quality of education, as well as its culture.
Thankfully, schools have begun reopening and college students can now reunite with their cliques and communities. For freshmen, this school year is particularly remarkable, as the pandemic will influence the way they’d navigate through college. So how can their school’s culture enhance their lives until their graduation?
The Mission Should Reflect on the Culture
It’s easy for schools to claim that they’re a diverse institution and pride themselves on it. But then behind the facade, neglect and discrimination are actually rampant. In this scenario, the culture becomes toxic, no matter how much the school believes otherwise. If it remains unchanged, they’ll create students that lack confidence. This can affect their lives after graduation, even if they did fairly well in their studies.
Hence, colleges and universities should build their culture around their mission or objective. If they want to diversify their student body, then biases toward race, color, gender, etc., should be unlearned. This will help students — freshmen and upperclassmen alike — to feel a stronger sense of belonging while on campus. They will no longer feel like sticking to a small group without a voice is the only way to feel safe. Most of all, they’ll feel relieved instead of anxious at the idea of going back to school. With a welcoming environment on campus, students from diverse backgrounds can have a voice that matters.
Celebrate Timeless Ideals
Universities and colleges typically celebrate a particular historical figure. This is similar to how Catholic schools look up to saints and regard them as role models. While this can be effective in forming values, constantly celebrating a historical figure can also damage the culture. That’s because it insists that tradition is prioritized over innovation. It prevents the culture from evolving into something that fits the rapidly changing world.
This doesn’t mean that schools should get rid of their long-established practices. Rather, they should only separate them from the best practices, which are those that fit the modern culture. To do that, schools should loosen their attachments to historical figures, and celebrate timeless ideals instead.
In the new normal, schools have plenty of opportunities to do that. High-quality virtual college tours can highlight both the traditions and new perspectives of the institution. The administration can talk about the school’s history, where its values are rooted, and how they want to use those values to create a safe world for every student. They shouldn’t be set in their ways, reasoning that it’s simply respecting tradition, even at the expense of professors, staff, and students having problems.
Instill Personal Responsibility
If managers in the workplace should instill accountability within their teams, schools should do the same with their students. Just because the culture is always changing doesn’t mean hard work is already unnecessary. College is still the training ground for adulthood and the workforce. As such, students shouldn’t be encouraged to deliver mediocre results. They must know that mediocrity affects long-term success. If they are getting bad grades, it should be addressed, because college isn’t like high school, where they can skate by with low marks.
Students shouldn’t just work to survive college. They must work to thrive in it. Although getting stellar marks isn’t the only way to thrive, they must at least try to surpass the passing rate. College students should view hard work as a personal responsibility, not a trap or a means to enslave them. As they’d be productive members of society after graduating, they must get used to working hard, and not settling on mediocrity, while in university.
Though today’s culture breeds kindness, diversity, inclusivity, and empathy, schools shouldn’t stop challenging their students. A healthy challenge stirs grit, passion, and discipline. Those qualities will allow them to become responsible, hard-working, and accountable adults. This is how schools can produce great leaders.