Colleges and universities around the country are offering different kinds of programs that give students the opportunity to think about their values and purpose. The focus and format of these programs vary by campus. The majority of the programs featured here are co-curricular, though one or two of them may actually offer academic credit.   

    There are a number of ways to learn about programs that may benefit your undergraduates and your campus:

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    • Use the navigation to the left to browse by institution.  Each institution’s...
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    Harvard University

    Reflecting on Your Life - The purpose of Reflecting on Your Life is to create an opportunity for freshmen to reflect – outside the classroom – on what matters to them and why.


    • Participants: First-year students
    • Participants: ~130 (out of a total of 1667 first-years) with about 12-15 students per discussion group
    • ...
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    The goal of the Project on Purpose and Values in Education (PAVE) is to discover and promote co-curricular programs that ask college students to consider “big questions” of meaning, value, and purpose. We are particularly curious about how programs that utilize reflection can have an influence on students and are narrowly focused on programming outside of the classroom. Our aim is to facilitate exchanges with, and promotion, of similar co-curricular programs on campuses and to make resources available for the creation and evaluation of similar programs on campuses throughout the country....

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    PAVE Working Group

    The PAVE working group includes teams of faculty and administrators from Boston College, Bowdoin College, Dartmouth College, Harvard College, Smith College, and the University of Richmond. Each of these institutions was invited to join the working group because of demonstrated interest in the goals of the PAVE project, namely that the institution already...

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    Howard Gardner, Tom Dingman, Katie Steele, and Dick Light review an activity that is frequently used during Harvard's Reflecting on Your Life program.

    In June 2013, the Teagle Foundation awarded Harvard College a $250,000 grant to conduct the Project on Purpose and Values in Education (PAVE).

    The inspiration for the project was Harvard’s...

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    Purpose and Values

    Why is it important to talk to college students about purpose and values?

    The colleges and universities represented in the Project on Purpose and Values in Education (PAVE) all focus on liberal education for traditional age college students. These institutions share a common commitment to the education of the whole person - intellectually, aesthetically, emotionally, and socially. The educational experience at these institutions is aimed at rigorous intellectual development but also character development, particularly the nurturing of a thoughtful and reflective...

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    With input from faculty and administrators from around the country, these resources have been compiled to help with the creation and implementation of programs that will enable students to consider their purpose and values.  Here you'll find best practices, program materials, publications, professional organizations and other general resources that have been found to be useful.

    • The best practices included here cover topics cover topics ranging from how to find funding...
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    Describe your program so that students “get” what you’re doing.

    When planning to spread the word about your program, think about language that will resonate with your students.  For example, the word “reflection” might sound vague to undergraduates; they may not know what it means to “reflect on your time at college,” but may relate to terms like – for example – unpack, question, examine or synthesize.

    Explain clearly that all are welcome.

    It’s likely that you want students to understand that your program is for...

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    Start-Up Process

    Organize a conversation about what you are trying to achieve.

    It’s not enough to observe that students are moving fast these days and need to slow down. If you launch a program, are you aiming to create moments of “taking stock” or do you have something more ambitious in mind, like developing character or promoting moral education? How important is it that students wrestle with ethical questions or develop an instinct to serve? These are useful questions to address.

    Decide whom to involve in planning.

    Some of the campuses have learned...

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    Find Funding

    Determine likely expenses.

    This exercise will have to follow the start-up conversations. Our experience is that the costs do not have to be substantial. That is one of the beauties of reflecting initiatives. But it is important to consider staff organizing time. If an FTE already has a full job, what is now not going to get done or will an extra stipend be necessary? Are you going to pay the facilitators (not done in many instances)? Will there be extra expenses tied to materials (like flipcharts or journals)? If food is going to be offered (always a good...

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    Assessing the impact of programming is critical.  A well-crafted assessment will help show what the students might have learned, how they are thinking differently, or even what changes they may be making in their lives.  That being said, assessing personal and moral growth during the college years is quite difficult.  Likewise, it will be challenging to determine the ways that one program may have impact when there is so much—academics, roommates, relationships, activities—that influences students on a daily basis.   

    Getting Started...

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    How to Involve Faculty

    Professors are the most valuable resource of any university or college. Many say that they are the university. Programs on purpose and values without faculty are missing the essential ingredient.

    Yet professors may feel unprepared to ask questions of purpose and values with undergraduates; they may also have doubts about the appropriateness of these questions for a university; and finally, many may be uninterested in areas outside their discipline.

    Therefore, efforts to involve faculty should be strategic and aimed at their needs. Here is advice on involving faculty:

    ... Read more about How to Involve Faculty

    Babson College

    Entrepreneurial Thought and Action - Babson is globally recognized for our one-of-a-kind Entrepreneurial Thought and Action® (ET&A) methodology that teaches undergraduates, graduates, and executives to balance action, experimentation, and creativity with a deep understanding of business fundamentals and rigorous analysis as the ideal...

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    Boston College

    Halftime - a program which BC students traditionally attend during their sophomore, junior, or senior year, gives students a chance to step away from campus to reflect on where they have been, where they are, and where they are going


    • Audience: Mostly sophomores, one program for seniors
    • When: Halftime...
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