Kindling school spirit at NSCC

Student government tailors events to furthering careers, not social life

The best parking spot on the Nova Scotia Community College’s Waterfront Campus can be won through donation to the food bank. Photo: Jessica Flower

Football games. Homecoming dances. Residence parties. The quintessential college experience.

But for students at the Nova Scotia Community College’s Waterfront campus in Dartmouth, such community-building events are almost non-existent at a school where students are focused on skills training and launching a career.

“We don’t have residences. We don’t have a pub. We don’t really have things to rally us,” says Chelsea Henneberry, clerical assistant in the campus student association office. “It’s hard to get a community going.”

It’s her job to change this. A recent graduate of the college, she was hired to assist the association’s executive committee with organizing events and campaigns. The student government, funded in large part by a mandatory $75 student fee, is gearing up to offer new events.

“The goal this year is to get people to rally and to get their $75 worth,” says Henneberry.

A goal of the college’s student government, as set out in the student association’s constitution, is to organize activities that support the growth and development of the student body. But generating campus spirit is not going to come through football games or residence floor meetings.

Henneberry says she will focus instead on healthy and active-living challenges for the college’s commuter-heavy student base and supporting the campus food bank, which helps students who are trying to support children while also getting an education.

Skills-based learning sessions, such as personal budgeting seminars, are made more enticing through the student association’s donation of a bursary, which students can win through repeated attendance.

“Students don’t want to make friends,” says Bonnie MacNeil, vice president of activities. “They want to get a job.”

Most students are commuters and mature students, both groups coming in to campus for class hours only. Evening socials or events with significant time commitments haven’t attracted students in the past, so the executive is re-evaluating events held in previous years to see what works best.

MacNeil says she will be able to focus on services and events that benefit students’ career paths through building portfolios and employable skills.

Dress for Success, a popular mock interview competition with $250 gift cards for professional work clothes as the grand prize, is back on the schedule for this year. MacNeil, one of last year’s winners, knows first-hand the bonding and campus spirit it generated.

Practical and workplace-related competitions foster good-natured rivalry among the students, she says.

Coady LeBlanc, vice president of services, says demand drives student activities and opportunities.

“Students will suggest events and committees and we just do it. We have a lot of freedom to bring in new events and programs each year,” he says.

The college’s student services department echoes this sentiment and outlines on its website that the student association’s role is to support and offer services that enrich students’ growth and balanced lifestyles.

In the eyes of the Waterfront student association campus, spirit built through employable skills competitions trumps tailgating at a football game any day.

The Student Association Office organizes campus events. Photo: Jessica Flower