Ann Neilson, Department chair of the Physical Education Department, discussed what she does in her winter sports class to teach the whole child. She came up with five dimensions for this: social, physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual (SPIES). For the social aspect Neilson has her students socialize with one another. They form groups early on in the semester to discuss issues they may be having with school or in their personal lives. Neilson brings her students to the von Trapp Family Lodge located in Stowe, Vermont. Her students then engage in cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, maple sugaring, and nutrition lessons. For the emotional, Neilson tries helping her students deal with stress – this is done in a number of ways. The European challenge was mentioned as a way to deal with stress. This activity involves rolling in snow and then getting in a hot tub. For those not brave enough for the European challenge there is always tea and lecture time in the afternoon. Neilson says that the lecture is often disguised as fun so her students do not even realize they are being lectured. The winter sports class also has sing-a-longs for stress relief. Neilson then discussed the intellectual and spiritual dimensions – which she grouped together. For these two dimensions she has her students read a book written by Maria von Trapp that The Sound of Music based on. This experience helps the students understand the history behind the family who owns the von Trapp Family Lodge.
Mary Fitzsimmons, Director of HEOP/ACCESS, and Marcy Nielsen Pendergast, director of the Academic Support Center discussed the many challenges facing students today and what their departments do to help these students. Nielsen Pendergast works with students who need academic support, have disabilities, or are on probation. She said that many of the students she works with are at risk academically, socially, and/or financially. With today’s economy many students have to work a part-time or even full-time job in order to afford to continue with their education. These students are at risk of leaving school because of the stress of going to school full-time and working. Another challenge for students today is that they are coming to college lacking the writing and math skills they need in order to succeed. There has been a large increase in the number of college students who utilize the writing center. Many students are also coming in requesting help with reading their textbooks, with tutorial requests, or with requests for help with time management. What is being done to help these students? Time management can often be a big factor in why students struggle, so they are helped with planning a weekly schedule for their academic and personal lives. The college also tries to provide emotional support for students. They want to foster an atmosphere where students feel comfortable talking with at least one faculty member. Three trends as to why students may be struggling have become very noticeable. The first trend is an increase in anxiety. Studies have shown an increase in anxiety in children born between 1989 and 2003. The college’s response to this is to help increase students’ resilience with the formation of a program called Knight Skills for freshman and transfer students. Knight Skills helps students deal with the problems first time college students encounter. The second trend is a high dropout rate for students who are the first generation of their family to go to college. These students don’t necessarily have moral support from family members who understand what they are going through. The last trend is the effect dorm life can have on a student. There are so many outside influences affecting students on a college campus (loud noises, parties, sickness, roommates, etc.). One last factor that is affecting student dropout rates is the stress students will be facing when trying to find a job after graduation. Many people are contemplating why they should spend so much money on an education if they won’t have a job to pay off their loans when they graduate.