Inspiring Core Values

College life requires clarifying values and adapting to a new normal

Navigating life in a college dorm, a new community, far away from family and friends is really cool! Suddenly it’s your house, your rules. Sweet freedom! But on the flip side, it can also be demanding. The expectation is that the student will continue to breeze through life just like they did in high school. But the road can get bumpy and the same smart kid needs a bit more than usual to handle decisions - and the decisions just seem to keep coming. I mean, with priorities to set from academic excellence, service and involvement to socializing and/or media-time, not to mention relationships, things could get a bit overwhelming. Students need a guidance system to work through this myriad of tough decisions for a successful transition to and through college life. The student’s value system might need a little tweaking.

Guiding Your Student to Define Their Core Values

The Purdue University Mental Wellness Task Force suggests several steps to help students develop their core value system. Have your student begin by helping you generate a list of eight or ten values that define the student. Pose the question to your student…what makes you, you? Then ask your student to reduce the list to five, and finally pare it down to three. Remind them that they are not discarding the values they omit; they are simply defining their own core values. My student, Nate, determined that integrity, respect and determination were at his core.

Applying Your Values When Challenges Arise

As a freshman in the 2013 class of engineering, he was enrolled in physics at Purdue. He called home saying he intended to get a tutor. Surprised, we asked him why. Nate simply said that the tests were hard. He said he knew the basics, but they were not coming together for him in the short timeframe he had to complete an exam. Determined to make that goal grade, he selected a tutor. As they worked through the physics problems together, Nate picked up ideas and clues, creating a process for attacking a problem in a short time period. His determination paid off and he succeeded in the class. His core value of determination drove him to find a solution that would help him achieve the goal of learning the physics concepts he will need in the future.

Inspiring Core Values – Aim for the Stars

Astronomers conduct research to understand the nature of the universe and everything in it. Nate had grown up star gazing and was fascinated by the universe. Family Weekend in April 2014 featured an interactive audience forum with seven astronauts. Nate and I attended and couldn’t wait to see and hear these revered astronauts that night. Inspiration came in waves as these incredible men spoke with passion, their unified message still resounds, “always stay strong to who you are, be curious, keep the spark.” When asked if he always wanted to be an astronaut, one shared “The job ‘astronaut’ didn’t exist when I was in elementary school.” He told students to get a solid Purdue education, be prepared, and when the good job comes along, you will be ready for it!

Cernan quoted John F. Kennedy (JFK), “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” JFK had relied on Purdue engineers to get the USA to space. Cernan added, “This (Purdue University) is where we (astronauts) took our first steps into space.” The crowd roared.

Their messages of determination, integrity, and respect lined up with Nate’s core values. Clearly inspired, and with that familiar look of steely determination in his eyes said, “Mom let’s go; I have work to do.” 

Nate has had a very successful journey at Purdue. Developing his core values, and implementing them when making the tough decisions our students all face during their time at Purdue, has kept him on course through his college career.

Purdue University is a rich proving ground for students who question the status quo and pursue intellectual growth as fuel for innovation. Dreams are supported and young minds challenged as they develop their core values and move forward in life to make their impact on the world! 


By Carol La Breche, P.E., Parent & Family Advisory Board

Parent of Nate La Breche, Environmental & Ecological Engineering: Senior

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