Setting the Tone: Creating a Culture of Mattering and Belonging in Your Class


Belongingness in the Classroom

It is well known that college student success is significantly influenced by whether students feel like they belong, and that they matter, at school.  Much of this involves settings outside of the classroom - clubs, residence halls, etc. - but a lot of this feeling of belonging (or not belonging) happens in the college classroom.  Positive experiences mean a lot as, unfortunately, do negative ones.

The importance of these connections is demonstrated by Peter Felten, Leo M. Lambert, Oscar R. Miranda Tapia, and Isis Artze-Vega in their recent book, Connections Are Everything: A College Student’s Guide to Relationship-Rich Education. This book is available as a free ebook, thanks to the support from the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, and we encourage you to take a look at it. Their book highlights many of the themes that were addressed in the session.

(We are also excited to host Peter Felten as our keynote speaker for the 2024 CONNECT Conference. Details will follow.)

This session was meant to bring together campus leaders in inclusive education to share practical guidance on how you can create a positive classroom environment, helping students to feel as if they belong in your class, and that their success matters to you.  What can you do - on a syllabus, on the first day, in the first few weeks - to create this sense among your students?  How do you use the beginning of the semester to set the right tone?  

Our panelists shared their own advice and experiences, but we also allowed plenty of time for questions, and for attendees to share their own thoughts and practices that might help others. 


  • Dr. Christine Neufeld, Professor of English Language and Literature
  • Dr. Devika Dibya Choudhuri, Professor of Leadership and Counseling
  • Dr. Stephen Jefferson, Associate Professor of Psychology

This session took place on Wednesday, August 9th, 2023. To view to Zoom recording, please visit the link below.

View Zoom Recording from Session