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How Do We Help the Millennium Generation Develop a Sense of Purpose?

August 06, 2009

Every year this time, faculty and staff at colleges and universities around the nation are preparing for the arrival of new and returning students for the academic year. For many of us in academia, there is anticipation and a personal sense of renewal with each new class of students.

At Cheyney University, faculty are refreshing courses materials, constructing course packs, and designing their instruction and assessment to respond to the intellectual and emotional needs of this new cohort of students. The admissions and financial aid professionals are busy answering telephones to help families manage the transition into the higher learning community of college. Other middle and senior managers are also busy refining policies and procedures that will guide the campus community through the upcoming academic year.

As I participate in, and observe, these various preparation activities, I realize that one of our challenges is to determine how we can contribute to the development of a sense of purpose in our new and returning students. This sense of purpose will, hopefully, be ignited by the general education curriculum and, appropriately, expanded and enhanced by an academic major and interactions with faculty and mentors.

On the surface, many students will attest that they come to college to pursue specific careers, or to increase their earning potential over their lifetimes. However, if we delve beyond their veneers, we discover that many of our students come to college searching for a future, searching for their passions, and searching for something that is bigger … something that they can commit their talents and affinities to – a sense of purpose. English novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly (1797-1851), the author of the famous Gothic novel, Frankenstein, is quoted as stating, “Nothing contributes so much to tranquilizing the mind, as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.”

As I reflect, it seems that it is the sense of purpose and passion that is the ultimate goal of higher education—possibly it is the ultimate goal of the human existence. If we succeed at Cheyney University, our students will leave with a vision and sense of purpose that is bigger than the acquisition of material possessions. Possibly, the sense of purpose they gain at Cheyney University will result in being a better neighbor, in developing a more enlightened view of the interconnectedness of all humans, and in participating more aggressively in sustaining the environment for future generations.

Maybe this is the purpose of college.

I hope that all of us, who see the education of these students as our passion will move forth with a steady sense of purpose.

Michelle Howard-Vita

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COMMENTS

Great topic as we prepare for the start of the new academic year. I think with "Millenials" we need to focus on their core values which are centered around team work, but still respecting individuality, as well as understanding how technology, and social networking are changing the way we communicate with one another and how this social networking is impacting our sense of purpose. Through social networking, we are seeing email threads that range from prayer for the "sick and shut in" to current topics on the news that impact all of our lives. Millenieals have the power to communicate with their peers and "cyber peers" about these issues and how we should collectively (team work)address these concerns. To give this generation a sense of purpose, we would need to focus on giving them both the tools to find their purpose and the temperment to solve these complex concerns that beset society. As an educational institution, we need to intergrate a sense of purpose into our curricular and co-curricular offerings. Again, this means more technology in the classroom, more discussions on how we solve these concerns and more opportunities for our students to be individuals on this campus. By being intentional in this quest, we should at the very least begin the conversation on purpose and see how its is forming in the minds of our students.
 
eric 5:33PM 07/16/09

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