Monthly Unity Chats bring students, faculty together to share

Maikalina Madali

A small group of faculty and staff members meet every first Tuesday of the month at the Hornet Bookstore café in hopes of conversing with students on topics affecting the campus community.

“I think any member of our university community might enjoy an hour of informal talk with faculty, staff and students,” said faculty senate chair Janet Hecsh. “For students, it does present an opportunity to interact with faculty in a genuine way in an informal setting.”

Unity Chat meetings are sponsored by the President’s Committee, a group of faculty and staff dedicated to building campus unity. Every first Tuesday of the month, the meeting is held from noon to 1 p.m. on the tables near the café.

The Unity Chats became a monthly event starting last semester. The President’s Committee initiated the idea to help bridge the gap between faculty and student voices.

The goal is to gain insight from students and implement them into university decisions on certain issues. However, the outreach to students has not been as effective. Therefore, the hosts have not been able to receive ample communication with students.

The first meeting brought in more than 30 people because a fellow professor invited his class to join in on the chats. The second meeting only attracted two students along with two staff members and two faculty members.

Lauren Temmink, a senior communication studies major, attended the first meeting for her class, but did not think she would have known about it before.

“I wouldn’t have gone if my professor had not brought us over,” Temmink said. “There was no advertising for it or any promotion, so I wouldn’t have known about it.”

The staff, on the other hand, has high hopes for the success of these chats in the future.

“I think it went great for our second time out,” Hecsh said. “The group size was just right for getting to know each other and the balance of faculty, staff and students was good.”

Hecsh said a small group is preferred so that every voice can be heard and students have ample time to participate in productive conversation.

In this month’s meeting, the predominant topic was student engagement with services the university offers.

“The discussion was about how students do or don’t become engaged in opportunities for mentorship and how challenging it is to get and use opportunities to be a mentor and be mentored,” Hecsh said.

Typically, the topics vary month-to-month depending on what the group decides to talk about collectively. They have spoken about topics such as budget issues, involvement on campus, politics or any observations they have seen at Sac State.

Although students think the concept is good, the students also think the audience they are targeting is not being reached out to properly.

“They’re trying to get feedback from the students,” said Erica Smith, a senior communication studies major. “Since it’s supposed to be about student experience, it’s a good idea. They’re using it to prevent issues.”

Smith said she thinks the faculty and staff members should post more advertising flyers and signs around campus because students will not be aware of the meetings if they aren’t publicly announced.

Maikalina Madali can be reached at [email protected]