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Steps To Leaps Celebrates One Year of Campus Impact

Steps to Learns Lunch and Learn
Purdue staff connect at one of several Lunch and Learns held prior to the pandemic.

This fall marks the one-year anniversary of the implementation of Steps to Leaps, a collaborative and campus-wide effort to focus lifelong habits and promote a growth mindset in five pillars – impact, well-being, leadership and professional development, network building and grit. This initiative has been put to the test during the pandemic, but Steps to Leaps programming and messaging has persisted through virtual and in-person learning opportunities, research and programming.

 

“I think what we learned as part of the transformation in March is that communication is crucial,” says Beth McCuskey, Vice Provost for Student Life. “Communication was our primary driver for how we were able to keep Steps to Leaps going during the spring semester and continue into the fall.”

Lunch and Learns began during the 2019-20 school year as opportunities for faculty and staff to gather and discuss important topics related to the Steps to Leaps pillars. Eight in-person events were held prior to the pandemic necessitating a move to a virtual format. Since then, more than 20 Lunch and Learns have been held virtually. More than 400 faculty and staff from across the university have participated in the Lunch and Learns.

Various departments in Student Life have been quick to incorporate Steps to Leaps pillars into their work. One such program is Boiler Financial Track, housed within Purdue Recreation & Wellness. The program, the result of a partnership with Purdue Federal Credit Union, uses the pillars to promote financial wellness.

“Students are utilizing multiple services offered by Boiler Financial Track,” says Junia McDole, assistant director of financial literacy education. “Of the offered services, presentations regarding beginner budgeting, credit and finances after college are requested the most frequently.”

“When students feel encouraged and that they have someone they can turn to, they will thrive.

In addition to presentations, one-on-one coaching appointments are offered to students on these topics and others related to financial wellness. Services are currently being offered virtually.

The launch of Student Support Services in the Office of the Dean of Students provides a further resource for the Steps to Leaps framework. Student support specialists help students connect with campus programs that can help in areas of need and further develop their proficiency within the Steps to Leaps pillars. This new entity has been especially important in helping students who have needed to quarantine or isolate during the pandemic.

Student organizations, such as the Residence Hall Association (RHA), have also adopted the Steps to Leaps pillars. Brian Tedeschi, 2019-20 president of RHA and a current resident assistant, worked to implement the pillars into RHA programming and sees their value to other student organizations.

“After the Steps to Leaps student launch, we made sure it was intentional that we implemented these pillars into our programming,” says Tedeschi. “Each program doesn’t have to do with a specific pillar, but they can be softly implemented – whether that’s during regular meetings, executive board meetings, small events, passive events or really anything you’re doing. That was something we worked on and that we feel is a good strategy for student organizations to use.”

Faculty have also proven to be strong partners with Steps to Leaps, particularly in the area of well-being. Louis Tay, associate professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology and a member of the Steps to Leaps Research Collaborative, has been instrumental in sharing well-being tips of the week through the Steps to Leaps website and social media. Articles and posts have shared information on tips to reduce multitasking, get more sleep, incorporate mindfulness meditation and physical exercise into one’s schedule and more, all based on well-being research. Tay also developed and launched a course on the science of well-being, which provides students with a scientific and psychological account of well-being, including its definition, determinants and outcomes.

The practice of well-being extends beyond Tay’s research and into the way he leads his classroom.

“During this time, as a professor, I feel very strongly that I need to prioritize supporting and communicating with my students,” says Tay. “When students feel encouraged and that they have someone they can turn to, they will thrive. One practice is to email a handful of students each week in my course to encourage them to do well and support them when they do not. Another practice is to create online communities like Slack, Facebook and other channels to help students mutually encourage one another to do well.”

The Steps to Leaps Research Collaborative will also be showcased in an upcoming issue of The International Journal of Well-Being. Steps to Leaps and other programs from around the nation will be highlighted to show how different institutions are promoting community well-being on their campuses.

Steps to Leaps interns have also actively participated in deploying the Steps to Leaps message by developing learning modules, engaging in peer-to-peer presentations and discussion, and sharing resources via Steps to Leaps social media outlets.

Jill Reabe, a junior majoring in communications, has led the social media efforts. In addition to helping share resources with her peers, Reabe says she’s seen payoffs in her own development within the pillars.

"It’s really great to be a part of a team that has all of these wonderful ideas and being able to see that through and create them together."

“What I have seen a lot over the past several weeks is the leadership and professional development pillar,” says Reabe. “Working with the Steps to leaps team has really helped me grow and work with a team to massage different ideas. We’ve had to modify how we put content out as well as different events. It’s really great to be a part of a team that has all of these wonderful ideas and being able to see that through and create them together.”

Steps to Leaps celebrated its one-year anniversary with a virtual summit event held on October 14. The event included a message from Purdue President Mitch Daniels, several keynote speakers, and morning and afternoon breakout sessions focusing on Steps to Leaps resources for faculty and staff to use when supporting students.

The celebration included a panel discussion where students shared their experiences within the pillars. Julianna Ge, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in engineering education, says she has found messages in the well-being pillar particularly helpful.

“I often hear about the culture of engineering being described as suffering a shared hardship,” says Ge, who is originally from China and completing her studies from Boston, Mass. this year. “I found a message of well-being particularly helpful in understanding how I can personally feel better and interact with others.”

Khushboo Jain, a junior managing in finance with a concentration in data analytics, shared that the impact pillar has been important in her involvement in campus organizations.

“When I first came to Purdue, I thought impact was all about being involved so I joined a bunch of organizations,” says Jain, another Steps to Leaps intern. “I thought I’d be able to make an impact in whatever I had an interest in, but over time, I realized that impact was mostly about quality over quantity. I prioritized the organizations I was a part of and, through that, I found myself making a much bigger impact because I was prioritizing my time and efforts into the organizations that I felt strongly about – Steps to Leaps being one of them.”

Steps to Leaps continues to push forward to offer programming and engage with partners from around campus. To stay up to date on the latest news, visit purdue.edu/stepstoleaps or follow Steps to Leaps on Instagram.


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