How to Recruit and Engage Community Colleges to Work with AAUW

Forty percent of all undergraduates attend community colleges, and the majority of those attendees are women. More women than ever — upwards of 4 million — are relying on community colleges for higher education and workforce preparation. They represent all ages, races, and ethnicities, include more than a million mothers, and have a wide range of goals. AAUW has so much to offer the women who attend these institutions. So, how do we reach out effectively to recruit community colleges as AAUW college/university members? And how do we engage students and campus professionals?

These helpful and easy tips will help you recruit and engage with community colleges.

1. Reach out to the right people.

Many community colleges operate within a system with several campuses, making recruitment outreach efforts much easier. If your community college is part of a system, there will likely be a central administrative office, your ideal first point of contact. Find out if anyone in your branch has a personal contact with a faculty or staff member, as this can also help facilitate the recruitment process. As you plan your meeting with community college administrators, make sure you are prepared to discuss the following:

  • What are the benefits of AAUW C/U membership?
  • What do these benefits mean for faculty, staff, and students?
  • What are the colleges’ strategic initiatives? How can AAUW’s programs and benefits help with those goals?
  • What are the responsibilities of the two C/U representatives? How can we help make the AAUW experience satisfying and engaging for them?

When community colleges operate within a system with one president, all campuses are eligible to join as one AAUW C/U member — that’s quite a bargain! If your conversations fail to convince the institution to invest in AAUW membership, some branches have found it helpful to pay the first year of C/U membership dues. You will then have a year of interaction to show the community college the value of their membership.

2. Adapt your strategies for community college students.

Many community college students are working and parenting while attending school. Their time on campus is limited, their schedules are often less flexible, and their needs differ from their counterparts at four-year colleges. Some students intend on transferring to a four-year institution, while others are completing an associate degree. Because community college student populations are constantly transitioning, it’s very important to stress the consistent community of 170,000 members and supporters that AAUW provides. Think about how you can adapt to meet the needs of a diverse community college audience.

Students may be looking for more engagement and leadership opportunities than what is currently offered at their community college. Encourage them to form an AAUW student organization to build their leadership skills, gain confidence, and be part of a larger community of like-minded individuals interested in advancing gender equity. Identify promising students to send to the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). In 2015, Johnson County Community College sent five students and two advisers to NCCWSL with the generous support of the AAUW Shawnee-Mission (KS) Branch.

When tabling, seek out high-traffic areas in the student center or lounge to reach the largest audiences. Encourage all students to enroll as e-student affiliates. All students are eligible, whether they are part-time or full-time. Be strategic in your engagement efforts — many students are on campus for a limited time, so diversify your outreach strategies to include social media and print marketing as well.

3. Show the inspiring things that community college students have done with AAUW’s opportunities.

Tell campus professionals and students to apply for a Campus Action Project or Campus Outreach Program Grant to create change on campus. Community colleges have received grant funding for projects on ending sexual harassment, promoting mentorship, closing the gender pay gap, and breaking down barriers for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. In 2015, AAUW grant recipient Napa Valley College surveyed middle school students about their perceptions of women in STEM and worked with the AAUW Napa County (CA) Branch to host a STEM event for girls.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Once you have recruited a community college member, stay in touch! Meeting quarterly with C/U representatives and any other key campus contacts is essential to fostering the relationship. Remind your contacts how C/U membership gives their institutions a competitive advantage in accessing AAUW Campus Leadership Programs and recruiting students in this highly competitive higher education market. AAUW helps prepare students for the real-world challenges they will face or are already facing in the workforce. Offer to be an ongoing resource, and encourage C/U reps to reach out for further assistance between meetings.

Have you built successful AAUW community college memberships? Share your tips at coll-univ@aauw.org. Tweet us a picture of an event and stay up to date with campus engagement by following @AAUWCampus on Twitter.


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