What does art have to do with student retention?
A recent Paint Night event on campus aimed to help students form a stronger connection with each other and with the University. The event, presented by the Education Department, provided paints, brushes and canvas board to students and prompted them to use their creativity to paint a bucolic landscape scene.
Pam Hollander, Education Department chair, said each academic department was given $400 for retention-related activities for the year, a proposal that was approved by an innovation working group of the President’s Cabinet.
“We polled our students to see what they wanted us to focus on for activities,” Hollander said. “They wanted a Paint Night and social gatherings with food. So far, we’ve run a pizza lunch, a ‘Meet the Chair’ morning with muffins, and the Paint Night with snacks.” The department also is planning a second pizza event for students after spring break.
The ability to have departmental events means that students can socialize with acquaintances and friends in their department who share a common interest to form a sense of community beyond just a focus on coursework, Hollander said.
“I feel strongly that students will be more likely to stay at Worcester State and be happy here if they get involved in activities with peers on campus,” she said. “The research shows that being a part of the ‘fabric’ of a college community has positive outcomes for academics and a sense of belonging. I’ve seen this happen for students with my own eyes. I’ve watched students who seemed a bit aimless be embraced by different communities on campus and their whole experience has been turned around.”
Once the Paint Night date was set, an email was sent around to students in the Education Department and the opportunity was greeted by artists and non-artists alike.
“As an artist, I like to paint and I thought this would be a chance to relax and calm down from the intense routine that we have on campus,” Thais Ribeiro, a graduate student in the school psychologist program, said.
Avery Dow ’26 also signed up for the event, even though painting isn’t an activity she would normally do. “I saw fliers posted and a message in my Worcester State email and I thought it was a good way to bring the education community together so we could meet other people in the department,” she said.
To find someone with art experience to lead the event, Dawn Gilliett, administrative assistant in the Education Department, sent out an email to education students who also had an art major or minor. There were three students who fit that profile, and Leah Daniello ’26 “jumped at the chance,” Gilliett said.
“I thought it would be a really fun, relaxing experience and a nice way to come together as a department,” said Daniello, who is an English major with minors in education and art.
Gracelyn Tatta ’26, an elementary education major, said the event was a good way to foster creativity. “It’s a nice way to bring people together and have some time to talk with each other and to see how creative we are because we often want our students to be creative so it’s nice for us, the educators, to get a chance to be creative, too.”
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