One of the opportunities available to administrators [& adjunct profs] to connect directly with students is through the Evolution Seminar. In many residential colleges, orientation extends beyond locating dining halls and classrooms, meeting with faculty advisors, and figuring out how to share a room with a complete stranger. Lehigh University has a pretty extensive (10 week long) program to help students in multiple adjustments to campus life. As stated on the program website,
The evoLUtion seminar is a fall semester experience that is founded in bLUeprint, which focuses on the Five Foundations of Student Success: Creative Curiosity, Identity Development, Collaborative Connections, Inclusive Leadership and Professional Growth and Success. As a student [they] will be asked to identify [their] personal and academic goals, discuss the campus climate and [their] personal identities, and have an opportunity to explore the South Bethlehem community.
The five foundations were developed by a team of student affairs professionals (led by Taran Cardone) and are integrated with academic and co-curricular activities. In my work, it’s a wonderful way to connect student to arts experiences; especially those that may not think they have any connection, understanding, or interest. It’s a way to start cracking open the mind to new possibilities.
As a group leader, I am paired with a student peer leader. They are returning students passionate about helping new students transition to Lehigh; a place they love and want to share what they love about it. I’m extremely lucky to have been paired with an enthusiastic student who is very involved in the music and arts scene on campus. He is also keen to encourage the first year students to explore South Bethlehem. Chris Dallao is exactly the kind of student I love to support.
I met my group for the first time this past Saturday. We shed our student/”adult” roles and became equal members of a team through a few activities at the Ropes Course. The students might feel a little awkward about calling a gray haired plumpster like me by my first name. I’m a little uncomfortable with it, too. But the students do know that if they take my courses, they can call me “professor” until graduation. I was raised to call my elders by their titles and last names. Heck, after a few degrees and decades, I feel I’ve earned it. – But I digress. In the Evolution Seminar, we are all equals in self discovery.
Through the Ropes Course, we learned about supporting each other, respecting each others’ boundaries, solving problems together, and persevering through multiple physical challenges. And the greatest equalizer of it all – the rain. It was fun. I’m glad I did it.
We met again tonight in Rathbone Dining Hall. We had a chance to reflect on our Ropes Course experience, and to share a meal. I also used the vista from the large window to tell a story of the multiple ethnic groups that immigrated to South Bethlehem. From our vantage point, one can see steeples of the churches built by the Irish, Polish, German, Slovenians, Windish, and others. I hope their imagination wonders over how the steelworkers and their families lived. How they kept their cultural traditions, and how the many cultures in South Bethlehem are celebrated today.
By telling a brief story about the multiple ethnicities that built the city they have adopted for the next four (or so) years, I hope they come to see the community has as many identities as they carry themselves.
Next week, we’ll be venturing over the river to the Charles Brown Ice House. By walking across Fahy Bridge, the students will experience travel in a way that may encourage them to cross again on their own. Hopefully to explore the tow path, or the Historic district, or maybe even the Celtic Classic at the end of September. The real goal, is to have them look at the South Side from the other side of the Lehigh River. It’s a grand site to behold; one that I hope instills a bit of wonder and awe.