More than Just Class: Campus Life is Lively for CCSNH Students
Finding ways to stay connected to their campus is a common theme among New Hampshire’s community colleges as student organizations plan and host everything from trips to Red Sox games, comedy clubs and casinos to campus barbeques, fitness classes and film festivals.
This year’s spring fling week at White Mountains Community College was not only about video games, laser tag and hula hoops. More importantly, the student senate-hosted event brought students to the campus for something other than classes, instilling camaraderie, fostering new friendships and creating a sense of community.
“We found that by having these types of activities, not only does it bring people here but it gets them together even if they are studying different programs,” says Britney Fisher, WMCC student senate president. “Sometimes people don’t think there’s much of a campus life at a community college, so I think it’s important that we give them activities that change that perception.”
WMCC is hardly alone in connecting students to their campus. There are more than 30 active student organizations at NHTI-Concord’s Community College that provide students with a wide array of opportunities throughout the year. In April, comedian Dave Coulier, who played Joey in the television show “Full House,” appeared on campus. Also, the Alternative Spring Break Club traveled to Arizona this spring to spend spring break volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club. The college holds a campus barbeque each spring and fall, while student leaders take part in a two-day leadership training programs for incoming freshmen.
“Students are looking to belong to something other than just going to class,” says Heidi Schmidt, director of student life at NHTI. “We are able to provide so many opportunities for students to learn and make connections outside the classroom. Whether it’s hanging out at our student center playing pool or ping-pong, or getting involved in one of our many student organizations, they have numerous opportunities to meet people other than in class.”
One of NHTI’s biggest fundraising events is in September with a Wiffle Ball tournament that attracts more than 200 students and alumni. Now in its 15th year, the tournament benefits a local child in need. Funds raised this fall will go to an 11-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with a severe form of hemophilia. “It’s a great way to build a community spirit in the students,” Schmidt says.
Helping students bond through social experiences comes in many forms. At River Valley Community College, that can mean an afternoon at Fenway Park watching the Red Sox or an evening of listening to an African band in celebration of Black History Month. At Nashua Community College, it might be attending Zumba and Yoga classes, or learning American Sign Language.
For students at Great Bay Community College, the week leading up to commencement includes trips to Foxwoods and a comedy show in Boston, while more than 40 WMCC students attended a three-day trip in March to Boston, where they were given “Go Boston” passes that provided entry into approximately 75 local attractions.
“Some people went to the Museum of Science or the Museum of Fine Arts, others went to the zoo or the JFK Museum. There were all kinds of things to do,” said Mike Fisher.
Viewing a provocative and thought-provoking film is a great way to engage students in a common experience. Manchester Community College has hosted the MCC International Film Series for the past nine years, screening four critically acclaimed films each semester, followed by a potluck dinner and a post-film discussion.
Scheduled for May is the Dutch film, “The House I Live In,” which offers a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, and “Pride,” a British import that looks at the 1984 mineworkers strike and how a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists raised money to support the strikers’ families.
Lakes Region Community College recently hosted documentary film producer and director Adam Jones for a presentation on his newest film “Fish and Men,” which explores a 400-year-old American tradition confronted by 21st century demand.
Other recent LRCC activities included a student senate-sponsored Multicultural Day featuring foods from around the world, a showing of “The Imitation Game” sponsored by the student Gay Straight Alliance, and Game Night hosted by the Women in Technology Club.
So while most community colleges might not include the sprawling campuses of four-year universities, New Hampshire’s community colleges are finding inventive, community-minded and just plain fun ways to help their students feel connected during their time on campus and for many years after.