In November, I presented at the NIRSA Region 1 Conference about a new program series we launched at Drew University called Adulting 101. Aspects of that presentation can be found in this article.
On the sidelines at one of Drew’s intramural soccer matches, I was discussing with students what they’d like to learn at our campus events. We can’t just have food out for students to grab and call it an event – we need to educate, inform and offer insight to our students. The answer I received surprised me: It wasn’t appreciating differences, study tips or thesis development – all of which are important and we offer. It was practical tangible life skills like taxes, finding an apartment, how to fix a flat tire, etc. I took the info from this impromptu focus group to develop a post-graduation life skills program on campus called Adulting 101.
Life skill development programs aren’t original – they date as far back as 1882 at a community college in Kentucky – but have seen a reinvigoration in the past decade. Seen as hand-holding or coddling by some, others believe it is another way to prepare our students for life off campus.
At Drew, I collected topic ideas from an array of sources: current students, young alumni and even employees who are parents of teens to find out exactly what we should be offering.
Once I had this topic list, I began putting names to ideas. I started reaching out to local tax professionals, talking with co-workers if they had a mechanic in their family, seeing what life skill experts we already had on campus, etc. From here we launched a pilot series of programs in spring 2017 with programs in car repair, public speaking, money management, basic cooking skills and much, much more. Fall 2017 saw other departments jump on board this successful Adulting 101 bandwagon to include their programs on our schedule. At the end of each session we surveyed our students to find out what they learned, what were some positives/negatives about this particular presentation and, perhaps most importantly, what future life skill programs they’d like to see. This info has been invaluable in developing future program offerings.
If you’re reading this you already know Campus Recreation means so much more than sports and wellness. We’re also teaching our students lifelong skills of leadership, communication and resilience all through the vehicle of sports and wellness. Events that could fit under this life skill umbrella might already be happening on your campus and your Rec department could now just be the home that collects and develops the idea one step further. It is another way to exhibit the important value our field offers the campus. The idea of “Campus Recreation” has been evolving since the moment the two words were put together over 200 years ago, and launching a life skills development series on your campus could be another step in that evolution.