SAU Buzz

Striving for success in campus culture

by Victoria Viren
Posted on Sep 13, 2019

"People don't quit toxic companies. They quit toxic cultures!" 

This quote by Brigette Hyacinth, author of "The Future of Leadership: Rise of Automation, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence," emphasizes what many studies have shown: success within the workplace is often attributed to a positive work culture. 

However, this research doesn't only apply to employees within professional fields. Students are impacted by culture as well. 

In college, students transition into entirely new chapters of their lives. Some are living independently for the first time, others are hundreds of miles away from a familiar face and some face the pressures of balancing all aspects of life, from academics to social connections to extracurricular activities. Typically, a successful college experience stems from classes to teachers and peers to campus life, which all combine to determine campus culture. 

Callie Hippler, SAU junior and strategic communication major, came to Ambrose right after high school. She suggested that campus culture depends on what you get involved in. 

"I think that a lot of times people can find micro-cultures throughout campus, so if you're an athlete, I think it's easy to fall into the culture of the athletes," she said. "Campus ministry has a really great culture, too." 

Emphasizing the importance of clubs and organizations, Hippler expressed how vital they are to campus life and climate. 

"I felt like it was difficult freshman year to get into something, so I would say that going to club meetings or going to things that you think you might want to be involved in is probably the easiest way to find your people," Hippler said. 

Rachel Johnson, a freshman studying early childhood education, shared her thoughts as a new member of the SAU community. 

"When I first started looking at colleges, I wanted to go to a big school. But after visiting Ambrose, I realized that smaller class sizes and a smaller campus was going to be the best thing for me," she said. "There are people from everywhere here, and I love that no matter where you come from, there is something for everybody." 

St. Ambrose University is a smaller school with a class ratio of 12:1. A majority of the student body consists of traditional students who live on campus. Because of this, many students have expressed a sense of connectedness.  

However, non-traditional students have a higher likelihood of feeling separated. 

Merredyth McManus, SAU’s director of student retention, has worked at the university for the past 32 years. She started in the Admissions Office before taking on her current title in 1997. As a full-time student advocate, McManus works with students who are at risk of leaving the university for any reason.  

“It’s not my job to keep a student here; it’s my job to help them problem solve and then make a good decision to best move forward,” McManus said. “In terms of the at-risk status of a student, I will say that transfer students and commuters have a much tougher transition.” 

McManus stressed that connectedness is key. She also said true Ambrosians, whether faculty, staff or students, must not only genuinely care about one another but also strive to find a balance between challenging and supporting.  

“Research suggests that getting involved in at least one thing outside of the classroom leads to a positive experience and completion of a successful college career. It could even be a work-study job- just anything that helps you be connected,” McManus said. 

College can be stressful, but it can also lead to rewarding and impacting life experiences. As McManus stressed, the key to a successful campus culture is a sense of relatability to the culture. 

“As faculty, staff and administration, we have a huge responsibility to encourage interactions in the classroom as well as out of the classroom,” McManus said. “We need to model amazing behavior so students are enthusiastic. If we show up when we expect them to show up, I think we are conveying the majority of our climate and culture.”