Want to Empower Your Students? Include Them In Your Purchasing Process

In Blog, Student Engagement by Amos Kober

Students are a passionate lot. They’re idealistic too. So it can be a valuable and edifying exercise to include them in your decision-making process as you choose your residence hall furniture.

That’s exciting to me. Why? Because at DCI, we’re also passionate and idealistic. We believe it’s possible to craft world-class furniture that’s completely sustainable at the same time.

And these days, more schools are using their purchasing power to set an example by supporting sustainable businesses. And they’re including students in the process.

In fact, some schools, like Penn State University, are so convinced of the value of including students in the furniture selection process that they bring them in on almost every key stage of decision making.

When asked about their commitment to this principle of inclusion, Penn State Director of Housing Operations Conal F. Carr says that:

“Student engagement is one of the keys of a successful residence hall program.”

In this article, I share examples of this kind of inclusion from three of our partners:

  • UC Riverside
  • Plymouth State University
  • Penn State University

Each vignette gives you a different perspective on what’s possible.

Why You Should Include Students in the Process

By including students in your purchasing process, you not only teach them about the complex vetting process of choosing residence hall furniture, you also have the opportunity to model green values.

And more importantly, you empower those students with a voice in the process. Once they’re part of the decision making, they have some genuine ownership and investment in the final product.

I’ve noticed that this is a growing trend over the past few years. Campuses engaging students and getting their input on residence hall furniture before, during, and even after the buying process.

This makes sense on lots of levels. First, students are important stakeholders. A large part of their college cost covers housing. And as housing expenses rise, residence hall quality and features are becoming a bigger factor in students’ school selection.

According to US News & World Report:

The College Board estimates…that more than 50 percent of a college student’s budget is spent on housing.

A lot of students want to know that their money is supporting a business with integrity. That’s why it’s inspiring to see schools getting students involved in the furniture selection process.

As an industry partner dedicated to the student-housing market, we love getting feedback from students. It’s what keeps us going, drives innovation, and allows us to continually improve. After all, they usually know best what matters in student furniture.

And more to the point, both students and schools want to support sustainable businesses. And if those businesses have a compelling story to tell…even better.

A Story Worth Telling

When you buy from DCI, you’re supporting hundreds of local men and women from the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Because we own every step of the supply chain, from refining raw timber at our sawmill and turning logs into lumber to making fine furniture and installing it in your residence hall, our company is completely local.

It may sound cliché, but those student dollars are supporting the kind of historic small town manufacturing economies that turned America into an industrial powerhouse.

And our furniture is made from FSC-certified solid hardwood in a state of the art zero-wastemanufacturing facility. We burn all our own wood waste to power our factory. At every stage of production, we optimize for sustainability.

How You Can Include Your Students

So how can you include your students in this story? The truth is, the purchasing process is complex and time-consuming. From choosing a provider and selecting furniture to the final installation, there’s a broad spectrum of engagement.

But the good news is that there are learning opportunities for students all along this spectrum. Here are a few recent examples we’ve seen with our partners.

On a simple level, you can just educate students about the story of their furniture. Schools are proud of their responsible choices and feel compelled to share that with students because it’s good news they deserve to know.

They’re making choices that not only affect the comfort and features that students enjoy. They’re selection of sustainable furniture impacts the long term health of the planet.

1. UC Riverside

At UC Riverside, students in the new Glen More Apartments received a brochure which told them all about the sustainable pedigree of their furniture and highlighted some well-thought out features they might not have noticed. (Note: Check out a snapshot of the flyer image below.)

2. Plymouth State University

At Plymouth State University, the sustainability team there created a flyer and hung it in the halls of their new residence hall called Merrill Place. The flyer highlights the sustainable story behind their new furniture and depicts, through simple graphics, the entire journey of the furniture from tree to final installation.

These flyers give students an appreciation of the process and transform the furniture from a basic commodity to something much more that enhances the story of their own educational journey.

(Note: Check out a snapshot of the flyer image below.)

3. Penn State University

And if you want to engage your students even more deeply, you can follow the example of Penn State University. And because Penn State’s selection process involved the students so deeply, we highlight their process in another post, but here’s a high-level snapshot.

From October 2015 to February 2017, students actively participated in nearly every stage of selection from reviewing RFPs and narrowing down the competition, to vetting initial samples, taking written surveys, and scoring the final winner of the contract based on in-depth rating systems.

And that’s not all. When this process was complete, Penn State was so compelled by our story, they visited our factory and brought along someone from the PR department to document and share it with the broader Penn State community.

If you want to learn more, Penn State also wrote an article about how they included their students in choosing our sustainable furniture, and you can read that here.

A High-Impact Learning Opportunity

Bottom line, there’s a huge learning opportunity for students here. Colleges and Universities are big organizations, they’re institutions of higher learning, and their also communities. As such, there are many levels to the student experience. And with that, the opportunities for learning are endless.

Engaging students in your purchasing process is one of those high-impact learning opportunities that could shape their career and their life.

UC Riverside Flyer

PSU Flyer

(Photo via Flickr CC: Aaron Hawkins)