Enhancing student engagement the focus of learning circles

How better to engage students in the University of Lethbridge community than to involve them in building the supportive culture they want and need?

This creative method of developing a supportive campus community is the basis of the Learning Circles project, and involves the creation of high performance teams (HPTs). Learning Circles is another Recruitment and Retention Project (RRP) with a goal of enhancing the student-centred service commitment of the U of L.

Craig Milner, an instructor in the Faculty of Management, and Heather Mirau, director of integrated planning, have been co-leading a group of employees and two sets of students who represent various disciplines and years of study in this pilot project. Its goal is to establish a process for developing a culture of HPTs based on self-management principles.

"Each team develops its own team culture within a guided process for achieving a level of high performance," explains Milner, who is well acquainted with the use of HPTs, and has a rich background in guiding and training high performance teams. He brings this knowledge into the classroom as well, teaching management students on how to construct effective HPTs.

Learning circle
Through valuable teamwork, students support each other in helping to build a supportive campus community.

To date, the teams have been meeting on a weekly basis, sometimes independently and sometimes in a group setting.

The employee team is known as the Dots and is meant to serve only as a source of connectivity for the students to find the expertise they need on campus to help them succeed. In cases where the employees may not know the department or person a student needs, it is their role to find that contact. In so doing, both the employee and the student learn what services are available and how they can be accessed.

"We really have great resources and expertise on campus, and sometimes it's a matter of simply finding those connections," says Mirau. "This is a great opportunity for both our students and employees to learn about all the services that are available to our students."

The project will look to add more individuals to each team in the spring semester, giving them an opportunity to ease into the team culture, at which time the teams will organically split and repeat the process to continue to take in more students and employees.

The Learning Circles have been well received by those participating in the pilot project.

"The experience has helped me analyze my own education and in turn create a strategy to improve my campus experience," says Nicole Meurs, a second-year management student majoring in human resources. "With the support of my fellow teammates and the knowledge sharing and resources of our Dots, it has really opened my eyes to everything that is available to us."

Jennifer McArthur, a learning strategist in the Counselling Services office, says her involvement with the HPTs has been very rewarding.

"It's been great to work with the students and help create those connections for them, and it's also been a real learning experience for our group too," she says.

Anyone wishing to participate in a Learning Circle is urged to contact any of the following: Kristy Burke (, Lynette LaCroix (, Nicole Leusink (, Jennifer McArthur (, Craig Milner (, and Heather Mirau (

This story first appeared in the January 2013 edition of the Legend. For a look at the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.