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Discussing Identities and Building Relationships: From Students to Colleagues

By Ashton Croft and Caroline Glover

Our research highlights the importance of sharing and discussing identities in the classroom in order to build positive connections between faculty and college students. In fact, these types of practices brought our research team together. In spring 2020, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were students in the master’s of higher education (MHE) program at Elon University. We both enrolled in a course about student-faculty partnerships taught by co-author Cathy Bovill, who was a visiting Fulbright scholar from the University of Edinburgh. Cathy was determined in her efforts to build comradery and relationships in the course. Each time the class met, we began with a PowerPoint crafted by one of the students in the class. Slides were filled with pictures of family, pets, homes, and other important aspects of our classmates’ lives. That exercise, and the course more broadly, focused on building meaningful relationships. For many students, this was a highlight of the MHE program. 

After the course ended, we both accepted the invitation to join a research team with Cathy and  co-author Peter Felten, who had been collaborating with Cathy on ideas for her Fulbright research. Our collective research and writing process for this article spanned from 2020 through 2022. In those two years, both of us graduated and moved onto our professional careers within different areas of higher education. The transition during COVID was challenging at times, but fulfilling, as we were able to learn from our team and navigate the change from being graduate students to becoming research colleagues. From our 2020 MHE classroom to this paper on the importance of identity and relationship building in the classroom, we have come a long way. We hope that this research can help inspire other students and faculty to form meaningful relationships through collaborations in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Read the TLI article here.

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