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 that groups involved in organizing this initiative benefit from the inclusion of students themselves. Getting support from the leaders, such as the president or dean, is important, though they are likely going to have to delegate much of the work. Broad representation on a planning committee is helpful, though for convening purposes keeping the group size fairly small (5 to 10 individuals) matters. If faculty are to play a role as facilitators – even though this exercise is outside of the formal curriculum – they should be included in the planning.
Learn where else this might be happening.
Many of our campuses are sprawling and organized in ways that may be confusing. Before you start, it is helpful to ask broadly whether reflection is happening in any existing activities. On one campus, it was surprising to see that what was being imagined already had a model in a service initiative less well known. Other places to explore are orientation programs and faith-based initiatives.
Determine what items should be included for discussion.
Many of the areas will be obvious but any list should probably include:
- Group size
- Random vs pre-determined make-up of a group
- Eligibility to facilitate
- Best place in calendar
- Any out-of-group work expected
Some of the campuses have created scripts to be closely followed. Others have simply provided suggested directions, expecting spontaneity to dictate outcomes.