March 01, 2013 | Myrna Anderson

Students are giving their feedback in Calvin's prioritization and strategic planning processes.

Calvin students are joining Calvin’s ongoing prioritization process, and they’re hoping to take part of it viral.

#Wearecalvin a new project from the college’s student senate, will allow students to share what they value most about Calvin through an online photo event and a student-led strategizing session.

“This project is simply a platform on which students can stand and share with the rest of us what they found beautiful and important at Calvin,” said student senate President Yeaji Choi.

There are two components to #Wearecalvin, a photo event that allows students to participate in the prioritization of college resources and a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) session that allows them to have input into the strategic plan.

A social media connection

The photo event, held March 4 through 10, capitalizes on the ways students communicate through social media. Using the hashtag #Wearecalvin, students will upload photos of the things they find most meaningful about their Calvin experience to the student senate Facebook page from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“We felt that social media was an easier way for students to interact with one another,” said Choi. “This was also an easier way for students to be united together. Students off-campus could participate as actively as students on campus. It does not require you to be physically present somewhere.”

Students are encouraged to upload photos of the things they find most valuable at Calvin: academic programs, the faculty, their classroom experience, dorm retreats, student organizations, facilities, “free tutoring, concerts and events, like annual events such as dance guild …,” Choi said. “Every person in this world has a different perspective and is touched by different things. We wanted this project to be memorable, expressive and maybe even fun. That’s why we wanted to do pictures because a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Students will vote for their favorite images on the student senate Facebook page, and the senate will present the top-25 vote getters to Calvin’s planning and priorities committee (PPC). The committee will use the student feedback in the strategic planning process: the plan for realigning Calvin’s resources to fit its mission.

A student SWOT

Wearecalvin also features a student version of the SWOT sessions being held  on campus throughout spring semester. A facet of the strategic planning process, the SWOTs allow Calvin faculty to gather in cross-divisional groups to discuss and vote on the college’s “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.”

Choi will lead the student SWOT on March 6 with President Michael Le Roy and executive associate for communication and planning Doug Koopman. They will gather input from students representing the academic division, residence life, kinesiology, honors council, orientation staff,  Student Senate and others and record it on posters, as is typical at a SWOT event. The voting, however, will not take place as it does at a typical SWOT event.

Rather, the Student Senate plans to take the process wider: “Once we’ve collected all of the ideas that the students bring, then we’re going to consolidate them and display all over campus the week after,” said Choi. “We’ll have posters of these all over campus, and students will be able to vote with stickers on what they think is important. That way, we will be able to gather a larger voice of the student body.”

The results of the student SWOT event will also be presented to PPC (of which Choi is a member) to shape the strategic planning process: the process by which the college envisions its future.

Choi often polled the student body during the planning of #Wearecalvin: “During this whole process, I was able to ask random students, sometimes in Johnny’s sometimes between classes, sometimes in dining … . They would give me responses, how they would respond to the project and what weaknesses they saw in the project and what strengths they saw in the project. And they were able to give me very helpful feedback,” she said.

She also got input from Koopman, who helped her to fine-tune the event: “Sometimes it seemed like Doug believed in my ideas more than I did,” she said.

A united effort

Choi appreciates the support she and her fellow senators have received from the administration for the #Wearecalvin project. “To this day, I have never doubted President Le Roy’s passion for students. I’ve been inspired by the way that he puts an effort in meeting students where we are at instead of expecting students to meet him where he’s at.”

In fact, Choi, a Korean student raised in Indonesia, decided to run for Student Senate president the day Le Roy first visited the Calvin campus. Her campaign slogan was “Be the bridge.”

“Yeaji has been a great part of the planning and priorities committee and the strategic planning team,” said Koopman. “She has energy and creativity, and the savvy and follow-through to get her ideas accomplished. And her love for Calvin and the full range of experiences it provides students is infectious.”

Choi, who majors in business marketing and English writing, is hopeful that #Wearecalvin can have a uniting effect on the campus, particularly between students and staff: “During  your freshman year, you’re shown a video: ‘I am Calvin. I am Calvin. I am Calvin College.’ Now is the time for us to unite as one and voice our opinion as members of this college, members who love this college, and stand up and go through this together.”

Senior biochemistry major Ryan Martinie also represents the student body on the planning and priorities committee.

Yeaji Choi and Doug Koopman

Check out the We Are Calvin video.

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