Macalester College

Lives of Commitment is a first year program for students who volunteer weekly and meet regularly to reflect on what it takes to lead a committed life.  

Senior Keystone is a program that creates intentional space for seniors to explore the transition out of college.  It is a place to join together academics with bigger questions of meaning and purpose to further one’s capacity for self-knowledge and ethical practice.  

Format: 

  • Audience:  Lives of Commitment (LOC) is for 35 first year students and includes 10 sophomore leaders.
  • When:  LOC participants attend a 4-day retreat that takes place just before new student orientation.  During the school year they volunteer 3-5 hours per week and the group meets regularly for reflection.   
  • Frequency:  There is a large group meeting to explore a theme around commitment once a month and a small reflection circle facilitated by a staff or faculty mentor that is also monthly.  Twice a semester a Saturday trip is offered to explore a Twin Cities neighborhood or a social issue in more depth with a reflection component that follows.  Senior Keystone meets every other week for reflection sessions and hosts a spring break retreat.
  • Approximate Number of Participants: LOC includes 35 first years and 10 sophomore leaders.  Senior Keystone selects 15-20 seniors.
  • Focus of program:  Lives of Commitment engages a select group of first-year students in intentional reflection on issues of social justice, ethical and spiritual commitments, and the integration of values into one’s life’s work. Students participate in weekly service work as part of a small group at one of seven nonprofit organizations that support immigrant and refugee communities and children's literacy. The community gathers for large and small group reflection on leading lives of commitment in our complex world.  Sessions explore key ingredients to living a committed life, such as belonging, compassion, courage, and motivations for service. 

Funding & Operations

  • External Support: None

 

Description

The Lives of Commitment Program engages a select group of first-year students in intentional reflection on issues of social justice, ethical and spiritual commitments, and the integration of values into our daily work. Students participate in weekly service work as part of a small group at one of seven nonprofit organizations that support immigrant and refugee communities and children's literacy. The Lives of Commitment students, faculty and staff advisors and student leaders gather for large group and small group reflection on leading lives of commitment in our complex world.  Sessions explore key ingredients to living a committed life, such as belonging, compassion, courage, and motivations for service.  A pre-orientation retreat immerses students into both Minneapolis and St. Paul to help them become active and knowledgeable community members from day one. Students spend time learning about each other's commitments while visiting immigrant communities and meeting with community organizations.

The Lilly Senior Keystone provides seniors a community in which to live through this transitional year with greater intentionality.  Keystone is a space to ask bigger questions with peers and join together their academics with questions of meaning and purpose to encourage their theological and/or philosophical mind and ethical practice. This community meets throughout senior year and culminates with a retreat during Spring Break. They then bring their insights to other seniors by hosting three conversations for their class on questions they believe all seniors should be asking amidst their transition out of college.  Sessions explore such topics as family influence, regret and failure, and modes of meaning making.   The retreat focuses on discerning the impact of their liberal arts education and the development of spiritual/reflective “skills” to apply to post-graduation transition.

History

Lives of Commitment is one of our service leadership programs and it was created to introduce first year students to the notion of vocation early on in their academic career.  We felt that students needed to be introduced to a vocabulary to more easily talk about their values, commitments and motivations for serving the world.

We believe students grow the most during times of transition.  Therefore, we focus our Senior Keystone programming around these times to help students live more fully awake to these changes and create community where they can help each other find greater meaning in the experience.

Recommended Resources

Assessment

In order to gauge student satisfaction, we solicit feedback from participants both after the opening retreat and at the end of the semester, in the form of a survey with Likert scale and narrative feedback questions. After the first semester we hosted two focus groups.  We are currently looking for a universal assessment tool that could be used to do pre and post testing.