College of Education

Celebrations for Retention: The benefits for students and faculty

By Dr. Jennifer Zakrzewski | October 12, 2023

The need to belong is fundamental to all (Kirk, 2022). No matter where we go or what we are doing, we are all looking to find our place in the settings in which we find ourselves. College can be stressful and intimidating for students as they develop new relationships and a sense of belonging (Kirk, 2020). Therefore, fostering a sense of community is imperative for students.

 Colleges work hard to recruit because there is heavy competition for students in the college market (Seery et al., 2021). However, retaining students is often challenging (Seery et. al., 2021). According to Etrem (2020), first-year students are more likely to stay at their selected college if they build strong relationships. However, the one place where students regularly meet, the classroom, is often not a place where they can openly engage with one another (Kirk, 2022). Etrem (2020), suggests socialization as a method of increasing retention. 

In addition to students struggling in college, professors may also be struggling. Professors with low morale have increased stress and are more likely to develop burnout (Mangin, 2021). Mangin (2021) encourages building collaborative relationships to increase trust, shared vision, and lifelong learning. This strong professional culture can help improve organizational culture and avoid burnout (Mangin, 2021). 

According to Kirk (2020), celebrations build community. Whether big or small, celebrations can help recapture joy, show gratitude, and acknowledge efforts and achievements (Kirk, 2020). These shared times can provide comfort, security, and meaningful memories (Kirk, 2020). 

By incorporating celebrations into departments around the university, universities could increase student retention by increasing a sense of belonging while decreasing professor burnout by allowing time for joy and relationship building. While college is often seen as a time to learn new skills for upcoming careers, it is also critical to remember that developing relationships supports everyone in the long run. Therefore, I suggest increasing times of celebration and bringing people together to develop solid relationships and build support in universities across the globe. 


Ertem, H. Y. (2020). Student retention in Turkish higher education through lenses of bio-ecological theory. Journal of Theoretical Educational Science, 13(2), 296-310.

Kirk, G. (2022). How can we address the wicked problem of university attrition? A Bed (early childhood) case study. Issues in Educational Research 32(3), 982-1000.

Mangin, R. (2021). Increasing teacher morale. BU Journal of Graduate Studies in Education,13(1), 22-26.

Seery, K., Barreda, A. A., Hein, S. G., & Hiller, J. L. (2021). Retention strategies for online students: A systematic literature review. Journal of Global Education and Research, 5(1), 72-84.

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