Baton Rouge - To improve student's well-being, support student success, and build and strengthen connections between students and professionals in related fields, the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) began virtual Student Network Groups in July 2020. In eight months, these groups have provided a safe space for students to ask questions and share concerns and challenges associated with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.
Currently, there are three Student Network Groups for students pursuing a degree in rigorous fields of study: nursing (36 students), engineering (20 students), and accounting (3 students). Each group connects monthly with peers and professionals who can provide tips they can use to persevere.
“I didn't have the opportunity to openly converse with many practitioners in my field until after I had already finished school,” said Jerel Brown, a mechanical engineer with Helmerich & Payne. Brown regularly attends the engineering sessions. “An outreach, such as this, gives students that opportunity to ask those questions they're unsure about related to the field they're majoring in.”
LOSFA’s Student Networking Groups also highlight the importance of the fifth match point of the agency’s 5 Point Match: Retention. This match point encourages students to make informed attendance decisions based on how well the institution graduates and retains students of similar backgrounds and majors of interest.
The retention connection with students in these networking groups is influenced by real-world scenarios; Allowing college students to engage with professionals in their field of study who can connect classroom learning to workplace experiences, thus, enhancing their skills and knowledge.
I’Ambrieanna Lazard, a junior nursing student at Northwestern State University, found the student network group through a friend who was attending virtual sessions.
“I would tell others that this group is the best thing they could ever join, with all the opportunities you have networking with others and having support. We are a family away from your family.”
Along with addressing the academic and social needs of postsecondary students, these groups also present a source for learning about experiential opportunities like internships and job openings.
“Engineering majors would benefit from a support group like this. Having someone to encourage and advise them is important, especially for the students in their final three semesters,” said Hailey Mohammed, a senior chemical engineering student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “Students nearing the end of their degree requirements are applying for internships, co-ops, and graduate school - so talking to a professor or someone in the field can help make a more informed decision as they start to transition working in the field or pursuing higher education opportunities.”
College students who are interested in joining a nursing, accounting, or engineering network group can click here to request an orientation.