Student Experience Action Plan features Faculty of Education expertise

PhD student Danielle Gardiner Milln writes that learning from renowned scholars informed her contributions to Igniting Purpose.

Danielle Gardiner Milln - 20 February 2024

Danielle Gardiner Milln portrait wearing a teal dress with curly hair in front of a wall of paintingsOn January 31, 2024, the University of Alberta launched Igniting Purpose, the institution’s first Student Experience Action Plan. This plan was co-created by more than 10,000 members of the University community through widespread consultations, workshops, engagements and a student survey. 

Igniting Purpose is designed so everyone within the University community, including staff, instructors and students, understands what students report as high-impact pieces of a student experience, and can direct their energies to making positive student experiences a reality.

Written as an “action” plan rather than a “strategic” plan, Igniting Purpose includes narrative accounts from students highlighting what is meaningful for them to have a positive experience alongside targeted actions and accountabilities to make these key drivers a reality. These can be summed up in the three principles of the plan: Connections Are Fostered, Exploration is Essential, and Challenge Accepted!

These principles point to what students affirm as essential to their experience — the ability to grow through necessary challenges while fostering long-standing connections and exploring academic and professional possibilities that they might not have considered possible before.

I count myself fortunate to be part of the team responsible for distilling this information and co-writing the plan itself. The mentorship of my professors and content of my coursework in Adult, Community, and Higher Education have been invaluable in contributing to Igniting Purpose.

It was never lost on me throughout this process how much I relied on my knowledge gained through the Faculty of Education to guide my work, and I am thrilled to see a lot of it in the plan. Critically examining a large amount of data related to student experience was an exciting challenge, and I am eager to see what possibilities the Plan opens up going forward.

As a student affairs professional for more than a decade, I am passionate about making sure staff see themselves in the plan as I know first-hand how impactful each member of the University community can be on fostering positive student experiences. Programming throughout our educational policy studies specialization gives me the foundation I needed to contribute meaningfully to the Plan development, including theoretical and practical understandings of governance, adult education and equity-centered, anti-colonial scholarship. 

Working with the student experience team gave me instrumental experiences in applying my practical and theoretical knowledge, and we are now focused on supporting campus-wide implementation. I get to see institutional change through policy implementation play out in real time now, and am immensely proud to contribute to policy development that is designed to have positive impacts on students throughout the University.

I am excited to see how the Faculty of Education’s programming comes to life through further implementation and iterations of Igniting Purpose, as the student experience team is already gearing up for more data collection and analysis. I want people to know the outsized impact our Faculty can have not only in the K-12 sphere, but in higher education spaces where I am fortunate to learn from renowned leaders in this field. People are continually curious about what my doctoral program contains, which has demonstrated the value of our Faculty’s programming to University community members from every corner of the institution.