Georgia Southern’s work to support students in their college journey is once again receiving national recognition. The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Excellence Awards has included two of the University’s collaborative projects, The Eagle Experience and the Period Equity Movement, in its 2022-2023 list of winners.
“It is a tremendous honor for Georgia Southern to be recognized in this way, highlighting these programs that impact our students,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Shay Little, Ph.D. “The collaborative partnerships across our institution that support the Period Equity Movement and The Eagle Experience are transforming the student experience.”
Little said credit should be spread to many on campus, including Amy Smith, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, Dustin Anderson, Ph.D., associate provost for student success, and Ken Gassiot, Ph.D., associate vice president for student development, for The Eagle Experience; and Gemma Skuraton, DrPH, director of student wellness and health promotion, and Gabi Wiggell, president of the wellness ambassadors and undergraduate public health student, for leading the Period Equity Movement efforts.
The Eagle Experience, a cross-University effort to ensure new students’ successful transition to the Georgia Southern college experience, was selected as the 2022-23 NASPA Excellence Awards Gold Winner in the Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, First-year, Other-year, Orientation, and related category.
The Eagle Experience began with a charge and directive in fall 2020 from the vice presidents in enrollment management, student affairs and academic affairs to reimagine the transition experience for incoming students beginning summer 2021. This resulted in more than 50 faculty, staff and students working together to create an exemplary experience for new students that consists of a schedule of programming that engages and supports a broad range of student populations. By focusing on niche student populations such as online-only, first time-first year, graduate, LGBTQ+, multicultural, dual-enrolled, military-affiliated, honors, international and transfer students, among others, the experience showcases the value that Georgia Southern has in ensuring all voices and students feel welcome.
Georgia Southern was the only USG institution recognized in this year’s list of winners. The Eagle Experience was previously awarded the 2021-22 NASPA Excellence Bronze Award.
The Period Equity Movement (PEM), a multi-campus initiative led by faculty, students and staff to promote period equity, won the 2022-23 NASPA Excellence Awards Gold Award in the Athletics, Recreation, Counseling, Health, Wellness and related category. All Gold Award Winners were reviewed a second time to select the grand winners, and the Period Equity Movement was also selected as the Silver Grand Award Winner.
The goal of the PEM initiative is to reduce learning loss from menstrual product insecurity (period poverty) among Georgia Southern students by providing access to free sustainable and disposal menstrual products. The PEM consists of three pantry site types – the Green Period Pantry, the Disposable Period Pantry and Period Products On the Go. In addition to these pantries, PEM consists of engagement events and implementation of a comprehensive, medically accurate, culturally relevant reproductive health peer education certificate available to Georgia Southern students. The initiative currently has 21 trained reproductive health student educators, two ongoing research projects, collaborations with 19 campus partners, and 68 pantry sites across all three campuses.
Created and is sponsored by the Office of Student Wellness & Health Promotion, PEM is also a collaboration between the Office of Inclusive Excellence, Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, Counseling Center, Division of Facilities Services, College of Arts and Humanities, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In addition, a partnership with The Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential led to the creation of the reproductive health curricula which is now available to peer education programs at other University System of Georgia (USG) schools.
The NASPA Excellence Awards recognize the contributions of members who are transforming higher education through outstanding programs, innovative services and effective administration. NASPA’s Excellence Awards cover 12 categories crucial to the success of students. Sharing our successes benefits students, improves institutions and promotes our profession.