ACU is more than a college; it’s a close-knit community of students, faculty, alumni, and staff who are passionate about learning, improving the world around them and integrating faith into their academic and professional pursuits. ACU’s staff works hard to foster a welcoming environment for students. Students, in turn, follow suit by developing close bonds with their classmates.
Making Students Feel Welcome: Admissions Advisors and New Student Ambassadors
Whether online or in the classroom, every Abilene Christian University course aims to provide a safe and inviting environment in which students can freely express themselves and their faith. This process begins well before students set foot in a classroom or log in for virtual learning.
As ACU Online Senior New Student Ambassador Elisabeth Evan explains, it all starts with a meaningful conversation. Students engage in open and honest discussions with admissions advisors who aren’t merely interested in hitting enrollment numbers; they want to make sure that ACU is the right fit.
According to Evan, admissions advisors ask students about their personal and academic journeys — and what they hope to accomplish in the future. During these initial conversations, advisors strive to help students determine whether they’re a good fit for ACU … and whether ACU is a good fit for them. Advisors refer to these discussions as “discovery calls.”
It’s more than just a single conversation with an admissions advisor; it’s an opportunity to build strong relationships. Some students admit that they’ve shared information with their admissions advisors that they’ve struggled to share with anybody else. By forging such a strong bond, admissions advisors are better able to help students transition to campus life or online learning. Some students continue to call their advisors long after they’ve begun taking classes just to chat.
After a student is admitted, the primary contact shifts from the admission advisor to the new student ambassador. These ambassadors continue to make students feel welcome, while also addressing practical concerns such as time management and APA formatting. New student ambassadors work closely with admissions advisors; both play the role of on-boarding students to the ACU family. Many students speak with ambassadors on a weekly basis, so they’re able to voice concerns immediately as they arise.
Student services advisors also play an important role in developing this unique dynamic. They are involved with a student from the start of their third course until degree completion. They help students with progression of classes, preparing for graduation and much more. Student services advisors are invested in the long-term success of all students.
ACU Online: Building a Virtual Family
Developing close ties is not only possible, but strongly encouraged for online students. They should feel just as much a part of the family as their on-campus counterparts. It all begins with a detailed presentation on Zoom, in which new student ambassadors offer insight into online learning, available resources, and the ACU campus. During orientation week, online students have the opportunity to introduce themselves to fellow students and faculty members. They learn each other’s names, their passions, and what they hope to accomplish through online learning. This experience helps them feel connected when class finally begins, no matter where they choose to study.
Later, students continue to strengthen ties through online discussions about course material. While they’re generally allowed to learn at their own pace, they must abide by certain deadlines and respond to their classmates’ post in the discussion forum; this allows students to gain additional perspectives from their peers. Students also connect through group projects, which are by no means limited to traditional classroom environments.
Group projects encourage students to work closely with one another. While the process can sometimes be challenging, it helps students build skills that they’ll use in their professional journey. Group projects also encourage students to connect on a deeper level and establish ties that might otherwise be difficult to forge in an online environment.
It’s also easy for online students to bond outside of class. ACU maintains an active presence on social media so online and on-campus students alike enjoy connecting via Facebook and LinkedIn. Online students happily take advantage of these and other resources and, as a result, come to truly know and appreciate one another. Master of Divinity student Angela Logan explains that, while she rarely, if ever sees fellow students face-to-face, she’s close friends with several and feels that she can call on them for support when she needs it most. Master of Marriage and Family Therapy graduate Aaron Maleare echoes this sentiment, explaining that he and fellow online students feel “united in this calling that we wanted to make the world a better place.”
ACU is all about building a close-knit community, so that students feel a sense of belonging, where they can accomplish amazing things. A supportive campus is a transformative campus — and ACU strives to exemplify both qualities with a faith-based, personalized approach to learning.
For more information on how you can pursue your career goals within the inclusive atmosphere of ACU, feel free to contact us at 855.219.7300 or acu.edu/online.