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Steps to Leaps Integrates into Academic Programs

Students collaborate and discuss Steps to Leaps pillars.

As a collaborative, campus-wide effort, Steps to Leaps continues to explore ways to align program outcomes and incorporate Steps to Leaps pillars and language into both new and already existing engagement opportunities.

The Steps to Leaps Everyday Applications Series, hosted by members of the Steps to Leaps steering committee, invited participants to bring examples of programs, courses and projects to working meetings to discuss how to integrate Steps to Leaps pillars into academic and social programs. The Steps to Leaps pillars include well-being, leadership and professional development, impact, networks and grit.

“The goal of this series is to unify all of the outstanding academic and social programs at the university around a consistent language,” says Zenephia Evans, associate dean of students, education and advocacy. “The Steps to Leaps pillars provide a framework that can be applied in any area of the student experience. With a consistent, common language, we can help students contextualize their areas of growth and promote ways in which they can improve their overall well-being and resiliency.”

Examples of how Steps to Leaps pillars can be incorporated into the work departments and organizations are already doing can be found in Purdue Polytechnic. Toni Munguia, director of recruitment, retention and diversity for Purdue Polytechnic, shared examples of Polytechnic programs that connect with the Steps to Leaps pillars.

Well-Being: Handing out “I am a Techie” t-shirts to create a sense of community among program participants. “Techie Tuesdays” offer an opportunity to show Polytechnic pride, with donuts and other goodies available to participants in the lobby of Knoy Hall of Technology.

Leadership and Professional Development: Techie News, a weekly newsletter that goes out to every Polytechnic student, shares opportunities for professional development and networking. Student-to-student chats are led by student groups and provide information on leadership opportunities within student organizations.

Impact: Numerous opportunities exist for students to serve as mentors to underclassmen. Additional programs connect Polytechnic students with middle and high school students.

Networks: Eight job fairs, connections with alumni speakers and partners, and additional mentorship opportunities. The TECH 1010 class brings women leaders and alumni to campus to visit and start networking with first-year women students in Polytechnic.

Grit: BEST (Building Excellence for Students in Technology) academic coaching, which helps students overcome challenges in course work. Summer sessions, tutoring and faculty mentorship also bolster this area.

“It’s important to understand that Steps to Leaps isn’t necessarily about creating new programs – although we would love to assist anyone who is interested in doing so,” says Evans. “Polytechnic is just one example of the many departments and organizations on campus who are already using Steps to Leaps concepts in their work.

This year also marked the launch of a new class titled “Beyond Mental Health: The Science of Well-Being,” taught by Louis Tay, William C. Byham Associate Professor in Industrial-Organizational Psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences and a member of both the Steps to Leaps steering committee and research collaborative. The course addresses multiple aspects of well-being including the measurement of happiness, the effects of happiness on longevity and health, interventions that can promote happiness and the types of societies which experience more happiness. In the course, students discover the history of well-being research, scientific theories of well-being and the scientific processes of its study, and the application of psychological exercises in their lives. A gained awareness of campus resources which promote mental health and wellbeing is also part of the course.

“By understanding happiness and practicing positive psychological exercises, I hope that students, and those around them, will be able to make choices that lead to happier lives,” Tay says.

Having to conduct classes remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic provided an unforeseen challenge, but Tay adapted with virtual presentations that invited student participation and created a Slack channel to act as an online community for students in the class. In spite of the challenges, student response demonstrates the success of the inaugural iteration of the class. In an end-of-semester survey, 93 percent of responses “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that assignments, projects, laboratories and examinations aided them in achieving the objectives of the class.

“I loved this course!” wrote one student. “The lectures were always fun and informative. I really enjoyed all of the extra, short videos of funny clips that Dr. Tay added to whatever topic we were talking about that day. I also thought that the Slack channel was a great idea! I loved being able to see what everyone did to aid their own well-being.”


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