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Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College

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What single factor makes for an excellent college education? As it turns out, it's pretty simple: human relationships. Decades of research demonstrate the transformative potential and the lasting legacies of a relationship-rich college experience. Critics suggest that to build connections with peers, faculty, staff, and other mentors is expensive and only an option at elit What single factor makes for an excellent college education? As it turns out, it's pretty simple: human relationships. Decades of research demonstrate the transformative potential and the lasting legacies of a relationship-rich college experience. Critics suggest that to build connections with peers, faculty, staff, and other mentors is expensive and only an option at elite institutions where instructors have the luxury of time with students. But in this revelatory book brimming with the voices of students, faculty, and staff from across the country, Peter Felten and Leo M. Lambert argue that relationship-rich environments can and should exist for all students at all types of institutions. In Relationship-Rich Education, Felten and Lambert demonstrate that for relationships to be central in undergraduate education, colleges and universities do not require immense resources, privileged students, or specially qualified faculty and staff. All students learn best in an environment characterized by high expectation and high support, and all faculty and staff can learn to teach and work in ways that enable relationship-based education. Emphasizing the centrality of the classroom experience to fostering quality relationships, Felten and Lambert focus on students' influence in shaping the learning environment for their peers, as well as the key difference a single, well-timed conversation can make in a student's life. They also stress that relationship-rich education is particularly important for first-generation college students, who bring significant capacities to college but often face long-standing inequities and barriers to attaining their educational aspirations. Drawing on nearly 400 interviews with students, faculty, and staff at 29 higher education institutions across the country, Relationship-Rich Education provides readers with practical advice on how they can develop and sustain powerful relationship-based learning in their own contexts. Ultimately, the book is an invitation--and a challenge--for faculty, administrators, and student life staff to move relationships from the periphery to the center of undergraduate education.


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What single factor makes for an excellent college education? As it turns out, it's pretty simple: human relationships. Decades of research demonstrate the transformative potential and the lasting legacies of a relationship-rich college experience. Critics suggest that to build connections with peers, faculty, staff, and other mentors is expensive and only an option at elit What single factor makes for an excellent college education? As it turns out, it's pretty simple: human relationships. Decades of research demonstrate the transformative potential and the lasting legacies of a relationship-rich college experience. Critics suggest that to build connections with peers, faculty, staff, and other mentors is expensive and only an option at elite institutions where instructors have the luxury of time with students. But in this revelatory book brimming with the voices of students, faculty, and staff from across the country, Peter Felten and Leo M. Lambert argue that relationship-rich environments can and should exist for all students at all types of institutions. In Relationship-Rich Education, Felten and Lambert demonstrate that for relationships to be central in undergraduate education, colleges and universities do not require immense resources, privileged students, or specially qualified faculty and staff. All students learn best in an environment characterized by high expectation and high support, and all faculty and staff can learn to teach and work in ways that enable relationship-based education. Emphasizing the centrality of the classroom experience to fostering quality relationships, Felten and Lambert focus on students' influence in shaping the learning environment for their peers, as well as the key difference a single, well-timed conversation can make in a student's life. They also stress that relationship-rich education is particularly important for first-generation college students, who bring significant capacities to college but often face long-standing inequities and barriers to attaining their educational aspirations. Drawing on nearly 400 interviews with students, faculty, and staff at 29 higher education institutions across the country, Relationship-Rich Education provides readers with practical advice on how they can develop and sustain powerful relationship-based learning in their own contexts. Ultimately, the book is an invitation--and a challenge--for faculty, administrators, and student life staff to move relationships from the periphery to the center of undergraduate education.

30 review for Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    It took me forever to read this book because I kept taking so many notes on implications and recommendations that emerged from the solid research on which it is based. I’ll write an extended review for the Journal of College and Character so stay tuned for that later this year!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    I read this as part of a book group on my campus and went between thinking "Well this is all so obvious" to knowing how important it is for everything here to be this well-documented, in numbers as well as stories. Felten and Lambert argue that especially for first-generation, students of color, those with learning differences, and well, just about all students coming in as the pandemic shutdown ends, connecting with human beings will make all the difference in whether they actually learn and gr I read this as part of a book group on my campus and went between thinking "Well this is all so obvious" to knowing how important it is for everything here to be this well-documented, in numbers as well as stories. Felten and Lambert argue that especially for first-generation, students of color, those with learning differences, and well, just about all students coming in as the pandemic shutdown ends, connecting with human beings will make all the difference in whether they actually learn and grow in college. Absent that attention to relationships, the white middle class kids whose parents went to college will skate through, check the boxes, enjoy the ever-improving amenities and hang their hats on the football team's record. That's not the enterprise I want to be part of, and in my current role as a Spanish professor I am very well supported in doing education the way these researchers urge us to to it: paying attention to students as individuals, expecting them to be interested in learning and able to learn, understanding that their lives before and during their college years often complicate their engagement with the institution and its demands, being ready to meet them where they are. For me, at this time in my life - 7-8 years shy of retirement, kids grown and gone, full professor, teaching small classes of language majors (i.e. almost all of them bright, highly motivated, hardworking, and there because they love it, not because anyone talked them into it) - this comes easily and naturally. I know it is NOT this easy or as commonsense for others in my line of work, that some of what's here will be more controversial than it was to me. But this got a lot of YES and AMEN and THANK YOU in the margins, and was the basis for some excellent conversations with colleagues in the book group.

  3. 4 out of 5

    JournalsTLY

    This book grew out of hard work (lots of research and interviews) and aims to grow strong convictions about education. Though the data is gleaned from American colleges, I find the ideals as well as comments about current educational pitfalls very relevant for S E Asian schools too. Key starters in the book about college education : 1) Every student must experience genuine welcome and deep care. 2) Every student must be inspired to learn. 3) Every student must develop a web of significant relationsh This book grew out of hard work (lots of research and interviews) and aims to grow strong convictions about education. Though the data is gleaned from American colleges, I find the ideals as well as comments about current educational pitfalls very relevant for S E Asian schools too. Key starters in the book about college education : 1) Every student must experience genuine welcome and deep care. 2) Every student must be inspired to learn. 3) Every student must develop a web of significant relationships. 4) Every student must explore questions of meaning and purpose. Assuming one agrees with the pointers about, then college leadership must not be too distracted by "pride factors" or prestige but focus on "human factors" (which help students to connect and succeed in college). To do so, college leaders need to shape the campus and life on campus to be a place where relationships become a cultural priority. Among other values/actions, the writers suggest : 1) value the time that staff and faculty put into relationship building eg mentoring or welcoming students. 2) value high quality education. 3) value Engagement over Prestige. Embedded in the accounts of changes that took place in various American schools, they remind that these changes are made and sustained by long haul decisions making and investment ; not by edicts nor quick fixes. Other than research gems, the book has many great quotes eg from Parker Palmer "... the human heart is the source of good teaching' (pg 67). Read this - it inspired me to value staff , students, education and educators.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    An interesting read, but more geared towards administrators than teachers. Most of this book was a collection of case studies on ways that programs, courses, and spaces can be engineered to promote relationships. As a TA and teacher, I thought these ideas were valuable, but I was hoping for more techniques or content I could apply directly in my classroom. I did feel validated in my approach to creating personal experiences for my students and in the work I've done towards mentoring and supportin An interesting read, but more geared towards administrators than teachers. Most of this book was a collection of case studies on ways that programs, courses, and spaces can be engineered to promote relationships. As a TA and teacher, I thought these ideas were valuable, but I was hoping for more techniques or content I could apply directly in my classroom. I did feel validated in my approach to creating personal experiences for my students and in the work I've done towards mentoring and supporting others with less privilege or access in my department. But ultimately, relationships have to be a cultural priority at the department and campus level, and there have to be incentives and structural support for TAs and faculty to put in the time and effort behind building them.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Morgane Golan

    "Learning, at its heart, is a relational process." I read this book with my university's Center for Teaching and Learning book club, and it put into words some ideas that I never really explored before. This book is inspiring and led to some very thought-provoking and fun conversations within the book club. I aspire to integrate some of the concepts I learned about into my own day-to-day life on campus. Parts of the book are sometimes redundant, but Felten and Lambert do know how to drive a point "Learning, at its heart, is a relational process." I read this book with my university's Center for Teaching and Learning book club, and it put into words some ideas that I never really explored before. This book is inspiring and led to some very thought-provoking and fun conversations within the book club. I aspire to integrate some of the concepts I learned about into my own day-to-day life on campus. Parts of the book are sometimes redundant, but Felten and Lambert do know how to drive a point home! I'd recommend this book to anyone who is passionate about improving higher education on the individual and cultural levels.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Layne

    Very good book about building relationships in education. Lots of examples and stories from the universities they visited. As I read it, it helped me think about things I could do to improve my relationships with students and how to help mentor them better. Bottom line, spend time with them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Great insights and thoughts about ways those in higher education can aid in retention and student success through meaningful relationships and mentoring. The only reason I didn't give this book a 5 star rating is that it focuses heavily on academic affairs, and it would be nice to see an expansion addressing more of other areas within a university or college. Great insights and thoughts about ways those in higher education can aid in retention and student success through meaningful relationships and mentoring. The only reason I didn't give this book a 5 star rating is that it focuses heavily on academic affairs, and it would be nice to see an expansion addressing more of other areas within a university or college.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steven Volk

    As the research indicates, a student's ability to create meaningful relationships with peers, mentors, and faculty is probably the greatest indicator of success in completing college. This book explores the research and adds details based on hundreds of interviews conducted at institutions of higher ed across the country. An excellent read. As the research indicates, a student's ability to create meaningful relationships with peers, mentors, and faculty is probably the greatest indicator of success in completing college. This book explores the research and adds details based on hundreds of interviews conducted at institutions of higher ed across the country. An excellent read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jimmie Bruce

    This is an excellent book about the undergraduate experience and how ALL faculty and staff have the ability to make a difference in the lives of students through building relationships. The very simple concepts of relationships, communication and compassion are made real through practical examples from the world of higher education.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zack

    4.5 stars alone for the 1st 100 pages which are student services driven, would have been 5 stars but the last 60 pages were too faculty focused for my current role. Rare to read a book where I want to underline a phrase on every other page. Good work related read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    There is nothing “new” here for those of us in small liberal arts colleges but the reminder about even brief supportive interactions with students is worth it. There are some great examples of specific programs too.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jody Condon

    Excellent read. Everyone working in higher education should consider reading this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hyatt

    Biggest take home: Students coaching faculty on their pedagogy!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    Lots of great ideas from a wide variety of colleges.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Good

    Powerful information-a must read for educators and I believe students too so that they can make the most of their education .

  16. 4 out of 5

    Randall Kempton

    Great central idea. Lofty in its aspirations.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This was ok. Good idea. A little underwhelmed by the execution.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    Really well written. Each chapter presents a problem and then responds with helpful statistics, interviews, and applications for change. Many of these proposals appeal to university administrations to rehaul structures, but there are also suggestions individuals can incorporate on their own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Winters

  20. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sam Waltemeyer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melanie Sanwo

  25. 4 out of 5

    Keri

  26. 5 out of 5

    Deshawna Colvin

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Chasteen, M.A.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Martin

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Ames

  30. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Endres

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