The COVID-19 pandemic has called for sacrifices throughout the Franklin & Marshall College community. This fall, the sophomore class studied remotely in an effort to reduce the number of students in on-campus residential halls. Now, it’s the first-year cohort’s turn.
In December with this transition on the horizon, Beth Throne, associate vice president for student and post-graduate development, received notes from parents of first-years expressing concern over a potential lack of structure for their students entering a remote spring semester. Around the same time, the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD) noticed an uptick in advising appointments with first years looking for internships and short-term opportunities to occupy their J-Term (a “January” term held over winter break during which students could choose to take a course at no additional cost).
“OSPGD proactively responded and innovated what became the ASPIRE program,” she said.
ASPIRE—which stands for Authentic Success & Possibility in Reach for Every Student—was designed to not only make students aware of the resources available to them and keep them on track as they move to a remote environment, but to set students up for success early at F&M. Held over J-Term, participants explored potential career directions and opportunities; connected with F&M alumni for coaching and mentoring; produced a draft resume, LinkedIn profile, and action plan to develop experience and skills over the coming years; and made connections with similarly minded first-year students. At the end of the program, students earned a certificate and access to additional individualized resources and coaching.
“ASPIRE was the perfect program for an undecided freshman who likes to plan ahead and know what to expect,” said first-year Nicole Gilliland. “I not only learned a lot about OSPGD, but myself, too. I would definitely encourage others to take advantage of this program and whatever else OSPGD has to offer.”
First-year students Olivia Schmid and Meredith Mangum felt similarly.
“To say that it has cleared the air of any confusion I had moving forward would be a huge understatement,” Schmid said. “I came into ASPIRE with no resume, no LinkedIn or Handshake [F&M's job and internship database] profile, and no idea where to go with all the opportunities that F&M provides students. After ASPIRE ended, I can now say that I have a developed resume that I am proud of, and LinkedIn and Handshake profiles that can help me network and connect with others later on in my academic career. The overall experience was really priceless and I would 100% take advantage of it again!”
Mangum said ASPIRE not only introduced her to the variety of opportunities and resources provided by OSPGD, but helped her learn more about herself.
“This program was particularly valuable to me as I am currently undecided about my major, and ASPIRE supplied the information I needed to make a plan to explore and find clarity about potential majors and careers,” she said. “Through the program and an individual meeting I scheduled with Beth Throne, I gained a greater understanding of my strengths and how to best put them to use for my own fulfillment and for future success at F&M and beyond.”
Based on the positive feedback received, Throne noted OSPGD is considering holding another version of ASPIRE later this spring and potentially rolling it out more broadly in the fall.