New program seeks to understand students’ needs

A new small group forum was developed at Eastern with the purpose of listening to the concerns of targeted campus groups in an attempt to be responsive to their needs.

The C.A.R.E. groups, which stand for Concerned Active Relationships at Eastern, were developed by Bettie Ann Brigham, vice president for student development. The C.A.R.E. groups are based on a concept begun by the late Harold Howard, former Eastern provost.

“Years ago Eastern did not have dinner on Sunday night, so Harold would invite random students to his home for dinner and talk to them about any concerns they had with the school,” Brigham said.

Brigham joined the students at the Howard household, and afterwards both faculty members would talk to different academic departments about the concerns of the students.

These meetings took place for five to six years, and they ceased when Howard became ill.

In the spring of 2003, Brigham decided to organize a program aimed at accomplishing the same goals Howard had in mind.

The program focuses on one group at a time, and participants of the groups remain anonymous.

“If we feel like we want to know more about a group, we invite them to get together and talk,” Brigham said.

In the past, the C.A.R.E. groups nominated such groups as RAs, SGA, office workers and certain majors to voice their concerns.

Currently, Brigham is working with the concerns of African- American students, largely because of last semester’s incident of racial vandalism.

“The groups are a little less formal than focus groups,” she said.

“We just want to get the feelings, suggestions and ideas of the students.”

She exlained that there are facilitators present who take notes and give them to her.

“We talk to the different departments about making changes,” Brigham said.

“Suggestions have been very well received, there has been good feedback and there have been positive outcomes.”

The group meets four or five times a semester on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

In the future, Brigham would like to do a group focused on athletes. Other future sessions may include different ethnic groups, and students in differing financial situations.

Brigham wanted students to know that “if you’re concerned, we’re concerned.”

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