We Belong: A Collaborative Reflection on First-Year Student Engagement under COVID-19


  • Laura Cruz The Pennsylvania State University
  • Eileen Grodziak The Pennsylvania State University


first-year experience, student belonging, reflective writing, collaborative writing, students as partners


Fourteen first-semester, first-year undergraduate students at a small campus of a large public university in the northeastern United States engaged in a reflective and collaborative writing project during a first-year experience (FYE) course. The project challenged them to research strategies to strengthen their sense of belonging as new college students during the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19. Despite limited interactions on campus, the students were able to identify factors which contributed to their sense of belonging, both to each other and the institution. Their findings are presented here, in their own words, with additional commentary provided by their instructor. This piece serves to celebrate the significance of integrating student voice, at every level, into teaching and learning scholarship.






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