Increasing Sense of Belonging & Achievement Outcomes for UC Davis Students

Social Belonging Intervention at UC Davis

Type of Research:

Curriculum Writing, Impact Evaluation, Participatory Research


The transition to college poses a wide array of feelings for students, including concerns about belonging at their new university. This can impose stress on students to succeed both academically and socially at the university level. Previous research has shown that letting students know they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings can increase first year retention rates. The purpose of this study is to adapt this belonging intervention for the UC Davis campus and evaluate its impact.

The Project:

This project is an ongoing collaboration with the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and will give insight into how we can increase achievement and retention rates, and how to holistically support student transition experiences to UC Davis.

The Design:

Student researchers are brought together to review Freshman and Transfer students’ thoughts and feelings about the transition to college, to conduct focus groups to learn more about how students are transitioning and the thoughts they have about a social-belonging program, and to review analyze and review quantitative data. Results will be used to design orientation activities for the incoming 2019-20 students.

Timeline  of our Design:

Pilot intervention 2017: We conducted focus groups to understand what students through about generic stories on student transitions and how they impacted their transition experience.The results from our focus groups showed us that the transition to college can go more smoothly through understanding student’s  perspectives and stories in more authentic ways

Fall Orientation 2018:

We used this insight from the focus groups to guide questions for our recorded student panel (intervention group) tailored around a discussion on how students found  or are finding a sense of belonging on campus. Our control group received the normal live student panel conducted by orientation leaders on their first year experience.

The goals of our data are to understand the differences in how these two formats (live panel and recorded panel) speak to obtaining a sense of belonging and how they impact student’s motivation, academic success, and second year retention rates.