Investing in happiness
|Corey Koenig '11 (alumni mentor), Melissa McCarthy '16 (FYS student) and Amy Hawley '76 pose during Coffee & Connections in October.
Moravian College stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness long before the country’s founding fathers wrote that famous phrase into the Declaration of Independence. But what does “happiness” really mean?
This year, one First-Year Seminar (FYS) class has been assigned to dissect the concept of happiness and how they might invest in their own happiness through their years at Moravian College. Katie P. Desiderio, assistant professor of management in the economics and business department, has partnered with the alumni relations office to match students with alumni in a mentor/mentee relationship to break down how Moravian helps students find happiness. This is the first time such a partnership has been formed.
Desiderio also asked student advisor, Hilary Reis ’14, to work closely with alumni-mentors and students to not only nurture the vibrancy of these relationships, but also to gather data from participants at three key points over the course of the semester. In collaboration with Carole Reese, director of institutional research, assessments for both mentors and mentees were designed to baseline and measure changes in both the alumni and student experiences.
Seventeen students were randomly assigned to alumni who agreed to “give back” to the college in this way. The pairs were given six prompts to stimulate conversations about their expectations and experiences around their Moravian experience. In the first week, students were asked to discuss how the college’s mission statement can serve as the foundation for success in college and beyond.
Two weeks later, they were asked to list all the resources available at the College to create a successful first-year experience. Later in the semester, they will be asked to describe how they have made the transition from high school to college, and to examine how the Moravian culture has aided in their personal and professional development.
And on October 3, the 34 students and alumni-mentors met one-on-one at Coffee & Connections networking event, perhaps only the first of many meetings.
“This is an excellent learning model that provides our first year students with support as they transition to the college setting. Our alumni are delighted to be engaged with these students as they explore their foundation for happiness and build a network of resources,” says Marsha Stiles, director of alumni relations. “The outcomes of this prototype are measureable from both the student and alumni perspectives and are transferrable in many ways.”
At each step, the alumni mentors are available for discussion and to answer questions from their mentee. Knowing that their mentor once walked the same hallways and experienced the same frustrations and successes helps the students understand how they, too, can make the same successful transitions.
“Blair [Blair Yasso ’07] once walked the same path I am walking now,” says Christelle Reglas ’16. “She was a freshman at Moravian, unsure of what she wanted to do in her future. Moravian upheld its goals from their mission statement and shaped her into a bright and successful Moravian alumna.”
Desiderio is using Blanchard and Thacker’s human performance formula, P=Σ(M*A*E), as the theoretical framework to guide the course (Blanchard & Thacker, 2004).
“The students will explore happiness in their individual lives in the context of optimizing performance,” she says. “We are exploring ways of thinking, reactions to our readings, self-reflection and how to express responses in an analytical and thoughtful way. In an effort to create awareness for our own happiness, we must understand the cultural implications that stimulate our lives,” she adds.
Even after only a few weeks, the students are aware how much this course will help guide them in the years to come—both while students at Moravian—and in the world beyond.
“My mentor has reassured me that the college I chose, after an intensive search, is the perfect place for me,” says Lauren Hostetler ’16 of her mentor Ginny Stanglein ’72. With her guidance and that of the College, I aspire to become a well-rounded, cultured, selfless and educated being who will live up to the institution’s mission statement, just like Ginny.
Moravian’s mission statement: Moravian College is a residential, liberal arts college that draws on the Moravian traditions of community, engagement in the world, and balance among body, mind, and spirit in the life of the individual. The College seeks to develop in students of all backgrounds the capacity to learn, reflect, reason, communicate and act with integrity as individuals and in association with others. This education prepares men and women for advanced study and continuous learning, individual achievement, and leadership and service for the common good.