Trinity University

Reflections - this program creates a time and space for first-year students to think about life’s big questions, articulate personal goals, and develop strategies to achieve them.

Format

  • Audience: Targeted to freshmen.
  • When: 3 weeks in beginning of spring semester.
  • Frequency: Three 90 minute sessions with dinner provided; an optional fourth meeting is possible given student interest.
  • Approximate Number of Participants: 50 currently, 200 in future.
  • Student Characteristics: First-gen, minorities, many female students; more mixed ratio when reflections conducted with students involved with undergraduate research.

Funding & Operations

  • Trinity Support: Trinity supplied $2500 of internal funds for the pilot.
  • External Support: $4,000 from the Associated Colleges of the South to hold a training session for facilitators. $50,000 from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (Netvue) from the Council of Independent Colleges/Lilly Endowment.
  • Operations: There are $5,000/yr in actual program expenses. Trinity has invested greater resources in training to launch the program. We anticipate greater expenses as the program grows.

Description

Reflections creates a time and space for first-year students at Trinity University to think about life's big questions, articulate personal goals, and develop strategies to achieve them. Using the techniques of guided facilitation, teams of faculty, staff, and student leaders employ small and large group activities and interactive prompts to construct a safe space in which first-year students become aware of their values and feel safe to explore new ideas about where they come from, their daily lives and challenges in college, and future plans.

On our campus, we often encounter students who are exhausted by the failures to differentiate between quantity and quality (stretching themselves thin with additional majors, minors, and extra-curricular commitments without clear intent how these efforts coalesce).  The goals of the program resonated with us—to create protected time and space for first-year students to articulate their values and begin to translate this information into actions. Reflections-like programming is consistent with Trinity’s larger mission and strategic plan initiatives to educate the whole student using innovative faculty, staff, and student partnerships.

History

  • Started Winter 2011
  • Expansion to Transition Programs Spring/Fall 2015
  • Inspired by Stanford Reflections and Harvard’s Reflecting on Your Life program

Recommended Resources

In a survey of faculty/staff/student-leader facilitators, colleagues reported that the sample curricula from Harvard and Stanford were of greatest value in preparing to lead their own cohorts.

In addition, we hosted a ½ day facilitator-training workshop that modeled sample values-identifying activities and shared strategies to talk to students about values/vocation.

Colleagues who participated in that workshop said that they enjoyed reading excerpts from the following sources:

  • Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade
  • Kate Brooks’ You Majored in What?
  • Tina Seelig’s What I Wish I Knew When I Was Twenty
  • Rebekah Nathan’s My Freshman Year
  • Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed
  • Tim Clydesdale’ article on purpose exploration programming in AAC&U’s quarterly publication, Liberal Education.

Administration/Operations

  • Trinity Support: Trinity supplied $2500 of internal funds for the pilot;
  • External Support: $4,000 from the Associated Colleges of the South to hold a training session for facilitators. $50,000 from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (Netvue) from the Council of Independent Colleges/Lilly Endowment.
  • Operations: There are $5,000/yr in actual program expenses. Trinity has invested greater resources in training to launch the program. We anticipate greater expenses as the program grows.

Assessment

Pre and Post assessments are conducted for all participants that include demographic questions. We have held a number of follow-up focus groups and electronic surveys to evaluate the lasting effects of Reflections.

Students leave the program reporting personal insights, new perspectives on how to use their time in college, and having improved their relationships with others to be more meaningful and authentic. Students report experiencing the greatest gains and insights in of a “personal” nature (i.e., better understanding myself, my strengths, my values). Participation in the three-week program is voluntary and currently awards no academic credit.