The Importance of Support Programs to Science and Technology Students Enrolled at Vancouver Island University Nanaimo, British Columbia
Greenway, Sarah M.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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It is important to get an understanding of 1) how Science and Technology (S&T) students feel supported at Vancouver Island University and 2) the level of knowledge of the available support programs by the faculty themselves since they are the first point of contact by students looking for guidance. This study was designed with a mixed methodology approach that included conducting on-line surveys and face to face interviews. Surveys were issued to S&T faculty at the Nanaimo Campus as well as to 400 students enrolled in S&T based courses during the spring 2016 semester. Fifteen faculty and seventy student participants were asked to provide comments on how to improve the overall student experience in the upper part of the campus. Face to face interviews were conducted with 8 student volunteers. The responses provided insight to what is important to S&T students at VIU. The importance of feeling connected with other like-minded peers, and faculty were very strong factors in the overall positive academic experience. Through the use of thematic analysis, responses to the suggestions from both surveys and the interview responses were coded and categorized. These major categories included academic support programs, electronic support, social support, faculty support, and program structural support, barriers to support and finally, recommendations. Results showed what was important to the enrolled students were also important to the faculty: accessibility to support programs, peer support programs, feeling connected to faculty and other students, and interdisciplinary discussion. Student participants expressed the importance of social media to feel connected to the campus and further develop student social structure. During the interview process, barriers to accessing support were identified that included first year struggles, scheduling, transit/parking, computer access, library access, location and faculty access. The researcher provided a list of recommendations that may be useful for faculty and VIU Administration in identifying key supports that could be offered with a science based focus in the upper campus.