Commit to Connect Heading

Commit to Connect is a college-wide student success campaign to remind individuals that every employee serves as a potential point of contact for a student and that there are simple actions that employees can take to link students in need with campus and community resources. Print the Commit to Connect Pledge to display at your workstation as a reminder of the actions you can take when you make that commitment to connect.

The campaign also includes the Your Prescription for Success pads. The sheets of the pad are referral guides that can be handed to students when employees talk with them about campus resources. Pads for instructors and reminder posters are available in every classroom and lab at all campuses, as well as in individual offices.

2020 Collect to Connect

We are seeing and hearing great examples of ways faculty and staff are connecting students to campus and community resources! Help us collect and share your connection successes and innovative methods to promote student success. Simply send your connection points to and we will share them through a campus email update each month.

January 2020 - Introducing Work Ethic through Student Connection Points from Chris Slone, Advanced Technologies

  1. I focus the first day of class on learning about each student through career discussions. In our division, getting the student to discuss their purpose and desire for being in our program and encouraging their desired career path is a great way to promote connection and help them through tough times. So, if the student struggles with a skill or concept in the course, I am able to reframe it in a way that motivates the student to focus and practice/study.
  2. I encourage the students to use campus resources by pointing out 2-3 at the beginning of each class session. This allows the student to consider them without being overwhelmed by the long list of options.
  3. I focus on connection through class events, competitions, and class parties.
  4. For student projects, I have the students be creative and think of a community service project or something to build for a family member or friend. This brings out a level of creativity and work ethic that an abstract project or a project for themselves does not provide.

January 2019 - Syllabus Addendum from David Haga, Mathematics

As part of the Commit to Connect campaign, I developed the attached page of institutional resources/links that I include on my Syllabus Addendum (Instructor Policies). Information includes the following:

  1. Registering for Campus Alerts
  2. Downloading the MyNortheast mobile app
  3. Tutoring services through TRiO and The Learning Center
  4. Campus and community resources (free or reduced clothing, dental, healthcare, utilities, rent, etc.)
  5. Student Needs Project programs (monthly food distributions, transportation assistance, emergency funds)

February 2019 - Northeast State Website FAQ from Suzanne Lyle, Mathematics

For this worksheet, students utilize the Northeast State web page to answer questions. Spaces are provided for them to put their answers and then they will upload this to D2L®. In my class, this will be combined with a Syllabus Quiz and just called FAQ Worksheet. I intend to refer them back to this document often throughout the semester.

March 2019 - Life Simulation from Jenny Reed, TRiO

I use the Northeast State Life Simulation in my EDUC 1030 course to enhance the Dave Ramsey series. The Northeast State Life Simulation activity offers a look into the lives of an adult learner and a student just out of high school. The simulations offer my class the chance to walk in these students shoes for one month and shows them the resources Northeast State has to offer.

April 2019 - College to English from Wendy Taylor, Beyond Reconnect

Attached is the College to English Dictionary I use for EDUC 1030.  When students first enter college, they often don't understand the jargon faculty and staff use every day and are too embarrassed to ask what the words mean.  I created the dictionary for the EDUC 1030 course so students would have definitions at their fingertips.

May 2019 - Instructional Methods from Jim Kelly, Humanities

  1. Learn student names (their preferred names, not necessarily the names that appear on the roll). On the first day of class, I divide the class into groups of three and have the students in these groups get to know one another by engaging in an activity. I visit each group and start the process of getting to know everyone. I never waste time in class having each student tell something about him or her. No one remembers this and it is not effective if it is done on the first day.
  2. Students hand in a daily learning reflection card each day, with the focus being on what they have learned that day. These cards form the basis of a class project near the end of the semester and each daily reflection has a point value. And it is a good way to get to know the students and their style of expression and ways of thinking.
  3. Never ask the question, “Does anyone have any questions?” This is guaranteed to get no response. Instead, ask a student, “And what questions or comments do you have?” Never ask a question that can be answered with a Yes or No.
  4. Never use a slide presentation that contains only content. Use slides that provoke discussion. I have done many classes where only one slide was used (one with a picture or a quote, never bullet points).
  5. When I walk into a class, I never ask myself, “What am I going to teach these students today?”  Instead, I ask, “What I am going to learn from these students today?” This sets up an engaging classroom and makes each class different.
  6. If I have a fully online class, I have weekly discussions that require multiple responses. The first discussion is designed as a way of getting acquainted, where the students tell us about their career plans, interests, etc., and I ask them to describe themselves using only six words.
  7. I use my final exam day as a day for celebrating our time together, and we share food, fellowship, games, etc. All our work is done by this time, and this kind of final allows the students to leave the class on a very happy, non-stressful note.

June 2019 - Classroom Tips from Kelley Hatch, Adjunct Instructor

  1. Because our college offers so many tremendous opportunities that students need to be aware of, I have a special tab under Content on D2L® labeled “Free Stuff.” In it I post direct links to Scholarship Programs, Mobile Food Pantry, Student Needs, Counseling, Career Services, and upcoming Campus Events. Students have only to click on the link for access and more information.
  2. The first 5-10 minutes of every class is Open Forum. Students are free to discuss whatever is on their mind: articles, memes, politics, movies, pop culture. It provides a stress free atmosphere and always gets the class period off to a good start as students inevitably tie what they want to talk about into the class topic for the day.
  3. At least once during the semester I treat my students to food, early classes get cheddar rounds, later ones pizza. It gives us an informal time to get to know each other over food and fellowship, and lessens their stress level.
  4. I have an embedded librarian in each of my classes who helps my students with research, proper Works Cited and in-text citations for papers, all from the comfort of D2L. The first week of class, I schedule a class visit to Basler Library. During the visit, one of our excellent research librarians, Amy Baghetti, Amy Lippo, Michelle Wyatt or Virginia Salmon, familiarize my students with everything they and the library have to offer. For example, one of my assignments is an extensive research paper on a Supreme Court case of the student’s choosing. Ms. Lippo put together on the Basler Library web page access to links to cases and commentary on cases for my students that was invaluable.
  5. My final Discussion question of the semester asks for honest feedback from my classes concerning how the class is taught, what they liked, what they did not like, including any hiccups they might have had with the college system. My students are always honest and have helped me, through their comments, to be a better educator.

July 2019 - Student Engagement from Tricia Crawford, Behavioral & Social Sciences

  1. In certain courses, I require service learning which involves volunteer work that hopefully benefits the community and/or better informs students about their chosen employment field.  I permit students to choose their volunteer assignment in order to tailor the experience to their individual needs.  Some want additional experience into their prospective field of employment, while others merely attempt to assist others.  After completing the volunteer hours, students are to prepare a brief presentation for the class regarding their work and answer questions from their peers.  Also, they are required to write a reflection essay regarding what they did, why they chose to volunteer in that manner, what occurred, and how they felt about the work.  Most semesters, students report positive experiences and state that completion of service learning gave insight (either positively or negatively) into their prospective career field or the world in general.
  2. Since most of our society, including myself, are under informed about what is occurring around us, I give a current events assignment.  This assignment is implemented in a manner that requires the student to not only report on the event but also to apply the course material.  Therefore, we can often identify trends in seemingly unrelated events if they are evaluated through the lens of theory, key concepts, and/or within a historical context.  The students report being better informed as to what is occurring and state they begin to think more critically in regards to evolving issues within society.
  3. I hold an open forum for one class meeting during the week prior to registration.  I am completely at their disposal and no topic regarding college life is off the table.  I mostly focus on advising and registration questions, but also typically receive questions regarding graduation, transferring, financial aid, scholarships, and the difference between life at Northeast State and a four-year school.  I hope the students walk away with some knowledge not previously possessed. I also hope they feel as if they can return to me, even after leaving my class, with any questions about college life as they move forward and away from Northeast State.

August 2019 - Building Community from Eric Stanton, Behavioral & Social Sciences

  1. A week before classes start, I send each student an email via D2L® and their personal email found in Banner. The reason for this is to welcome them to the class and get them looking at D2L.
  2. On the first day of class, I have each student tell me a little something about themselves (verbally). This helps both me and their fellow students to get to know each other. I have also found that many of the students also reconnect after going to high school together.
  3. I always get to the classroom early to personally greet each of my students as they enter the door throughout the semester. I also personally tell them bye and give them “fist bumps” as they leave for the day.
  4. I am a firm believer in retention and involvement as well. I constantly promote student organizations like the Criminal Justice Society and other student events offered on campus. I have found that student involvement not only helps with retention but also gives students a place to belong, be recognized, and feel a part of the team.
  5. Finally, I am a huge supporter of 1-on-1 advising for all students. I have found this to be very beneficial in getting to know our students, making them feel welcome, keeping them on track, and I have found that they feel comfortable to approach me when they have a “student need” issue.

September 2019 - Collaboration from Andrea Amos, Behavioral & Social Sciences

  1. A wonderful thing about Northeast State is that we have the best faculty around! I reach out to my colleagues and enjoy getting feedback from them on best practices. I actively seek professional development opportunities online that will assist me in my courses. Collaboration is important to academic and student success.
  2. I, like many others, incorporate community service as a requirement in the classroom. Not only does this help TN Promise (of which I am a mentor for my third year) but also it helps the students get connected to the community they live in. I enjoy the opportunity to get to know students outside of the classroom by actively participating in community service: the Criminal Justice Society Adopt-A-Highway Program, Sullivan County 4-H, and with the Holston Ruritan.
  3. Teaching online courses has presented a challenge that I have proactively, with a lot of best practice collaboration, found to be fulfilling. I include "Campus News" in my Announcements daily where I let students know about activities on campus, upcoming events, important dates, and networking opportunities. I also enjoy having more open-ended weekly discussions where students feel like they are in a community and not just an online course.
  4. Lastly, I reach out to students early in the semester and utilize the Student Alerts ( system when needed. I want them to know I care and I will guide them to get the help they need. Every student matters.

October 2019 - Retention = Collaborative Groups + Student Engagement from Dr. David Toye, Humanities

Some years ago, I attended a series of workshops sponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence (currently the Center for Teaching & Learning) that focused on collaborative learning, based on the research conducted by the Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota. After participating in these workshops, I began organizing students into small groups of three or four.

At the beginning of each class meeting, the students in each group complete a very brief survey (see attachment), where students rate their class participation (attendance, completion of reading and writing assignments, communication with other members of the group). Over the course of the semester, each group accumulates points, based on these daily surveys, and each member receives the same grade for their group’s point total. In addition, students within each group engage in class discussions and post the findings of their group under Discussions in D2L. Each group also must prepare and post a brief online report based on the findings of all the groups for one of these class discussions over the course of the semester.

This collaborative course work altogether constitutes only about 8% of each student’s final grade in the class. I have been organizing students into collaborative groups for several years now and retention in my courses has improved. Students in these groups communicate with one another and contact students who are not attending or participating in class activities since their grade in the class depends on it.  Due to this communication, I have seen an increase in students who contact me about completing missed assignments and exams.

I have also observed that class meetings are in general livelier since I have introduced collaborative groups. This increased interactivity among students may result from students engaging with one another in their groups. Of course, there have been cases where students have expressed to me that they do not like working in a group. In those cases, I inform students that working effectively on a team is a skill that they must develop to achieve success in their professional careers.

November 2019 - Northeast State Bearographies: We Belong Here from Greg Walters, Student Development

A fun, and often times heart-tugging, leadership training activity that I have used since 2007 (prior to the rise of J. P. the Bear!) is called “Northeast State Bearographies”. Adaptable for use in classrooms, club meetings, staff retreats, and professional development workshops, this exercise enhances team trust and openness. Participants are able to share details of their life experiences that have brought them to Northeast State in a safe and non-threatening forum.

I have always had an affinity for bears and find myself rescuing them and other abandoned stuffed animals from thrift stores and yard sales. So, why not give them an opportunity to belong at Northeast State, too? Each individual adopts and names a stuffed animal, and, as the activity name implies, they write an autobiography as if their new friend represents their life. This allows the participants to open up about their dreams, feelings, or major events in their lives. The camel picture in the linked poster is named Bruce, by the way, and lives in C2110. They are able to write their stories down, albeit with enhanced details or parts left out, but still revealing and sharing connections and commonalities that build bonds of friendship and understanding. Be warned, sometimes the stories are outrageously funny and sometimes they will leave you in tears. All of them will inspire and validate why we serve as educators. I do not collect the bearographies. The writers keep them to gift others as they see fit outside the training sessions. What is shared in a bearography stays within the listeners’ hearts and minds by request of the facilitator.

Since we officially became the Northeast State Bears, a bearography has extra special meaning. It fits right in with our commitment to a diverse and inclusive Northeast State. You belong here; we belong here. In other words, you don’t have to look like a bear to be a Northeast State Bear.

December 2019 - "How can I show them I care?" from Dr. Donna Farrell, Business Technologies

Where my students are concerned, there is one question I am constantly asking myself, “How can I show them I care?” Because, I do care about their success in their classes, what is going on in their daily lives, and how things are with them. During my first year, I often struggled with how to accomplish this. Sometimes, depending on the student, I still struggle with it. I want to share what works for me in fostering confidence and showing my students that I care.

  1. Listen
    I try not to interrupt. I do not focus on anything else, and I want each student to feel understood. This also encourages them to feel comfortable asking me for help.
  2. Help
    If a student does not understand a concept, it is my job to help them. In addition, it is my job to be able to identify that my student is having trouble. I talk to them, listen to them, and we work together during class or schedule additional time to work on the concept. The best results come from one-on-one, hands-on assistance, and I offer this with every class. More so than not, I find they have a deep appreciation for the time and effort, as do I.
  3. Know their names
    It certainly is difficult to learn the name of every student in the first two weeks of class. That is my goal! The payoff is grand! I get smiles when acknowledging a student by name. This makes a difference in knowing that I care. I greet students when they enter class with their names, when they exit class, when I see them in the hallway, and if I see them off campus.
  4. Share their successes
    No matter how big or small, “I am proud of you.” or “You did a really good job on this.” goes a long way. Sadly, I have found that our students just do not hear this enough. They should.

The benefits of incorporating these four items come to me in various forms: an email from a graduate telling me about her new job, a phone call from a student immediately after passing his certification exam, a picture of a new baby, or a card left on my door with a simple sentence like “thank you for caring”.  Little things like this have become my favorite things and the most important things about being a faculty member.

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