By Mike Loomis, Ed. D., Dean of Student Development
The current generation of college students is commonly referred to as the millennial generation. The millennial generation is often characterized by such terms as: special (with each one made to feel unique and above average), sheltered (having grown up with "baby on board" signs, bike helmets, and almost constant observation and supervision), confident (possessing an incredible sense of potential and possibility and often told that they can achieve anything), team-oriented (growing up with group activities, personal coaches, study groups, and a commitment to inclusion), achievers (having lived through higher education standards, statewide testing, busy schedules, and high parental involvement), pressured (to fulfill parental expectations and make good on all of their opportunities), conventional (affirming family norms and values and a willingness to follow social norms), experiential (stemming from their multiple commitments and teams, a desire to serve, and a thirst for new and unique adventures), diverse (the most ethnically/racially diverse generation in America and the living fruit of America′s work on desegregation and equal opportunity), and very tech. savvy (they are the first generation to exceed their parents in the knowledge and use of technology) (Elmore, 2010; Howe & Strauss, 2000; Infante, 2001; Murray, 1997; Neil, 2001; Skarra, Cronk, & Nelson, 2001; Stapinski, 1999; & Zemke, 2001).
In some sense, educating and ministering to the millennial generation is no different than with previous cohorts of students. The two primary modes on student engagement, challenge and support, have become common place in the Christian liberal arts environment. That is to say, our role as educators is to challenge students to move beyond their comfort zones, to develop critical thinking skills, to engage with students and instructors from differing perspectives and points of view, and to develop vocational, relational and leadership skills that will empower them for the future. On the other hand, educators are also here to support students at their point of greatest need, be that intellectually, socially, spiritually, or emotionally, such that students are empowered to develop and to eventually make a positive contribution to their field of study, as well as impact the kingdom for Christ. Taken together one can imagine that the college years become a critical time of growth and development in a person′s life.
Our challenge as educators becomes finding and/or developing ways to capitalize on the learning opportunities this challenge and support relationship presents, such that a student′s growth and development are maximized in just a few short years. Emerging research is demonstrating a significant and qualitative difference between students that merely survive the college years and those that truly thrive in college. Schreiner (2010): and her research team:
Use the term thriving to describe the experiences of college students who are fully engaged, intellectually, socially, and emotionally. Thriving college students not only are academically successful, they also experience a sense of community and a level of psychological well-being that contributes to their persistence to graduation and allows them to gain maximum benefit from being in college. (p. 4)
The notion of thriving is a multifaceted composition of interrelated variables and behaviors, not the least of which is: (a) academic thriving is characterized as a student that is fully engaged in his/ her learning, possesses a high level of academic determination, is able to manage the demands of college time (academic, social and spiritual); (b) intrapersonal thriving encompasses the development of a healthy self-perception, a positive attitude towards life and learning, an understanding and development of their strengths, appropriate and mature coping skills, as well as an overall positive perspective on life that enables students to envision future success; (c) interpersonal thriving relates to meaningful relationships, a strong network of friends, a connection to the community, an understanding and desire to relate to others from diverse backgrounds, as well as a desire, commitment, and belief that individuals can make a difference in the world (Schreiner, 2010).
When we publicize and write about the phrase accept the challenge we are calling students into an intentional Christian learning community that offers a wide range of opportunities to learn and grow. Thriving at Geneva can be accomplished through a series of intentional decision and commitments, including, but not limited to:
The Geneva College experience, or the Geneva challenge, is about fully engaging the incredible opportunities offered, both on and off campus, both in and out of the classroom. In the end we want students to be intentional about their time at Geneva, and ultimately be students that don′t just survive college, but truly thrive!
Elmore, T. (2010). Generation iY: Our last chance to save the future. Atlanta, GA: Poet Gardener Publishing.
Howe, N. & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennial′s rising: The next great generation. NY: Vintage Books.
Infante, V. (2001). Millennial′s: A new generation in the workforce. [Electronic version]. Workforce, 80, 3, 28-29.
Murray, N. D. (1997). Welcome to the future: The millennial generations. Journal of Career Planning & Employment, 57, 3, 36-42.
Neil, M. (2001). This is our golden age. Journal of Career Planning and Employment, 61, 2, 33-36.
Skarra, L. Cronk, C. & Nelson, A. (2001). Here come the millennial′s! (Generation Y consumers). Prepared Foods, 170, 5., 30.
Schreiner, L. (2010). The thriving quotient: a new vision for student success. About Campus, May-June, 2-10.
Stapinski, H. (1999). Y not love? [Electronic version]. American Demographics, 21, 2, 62-68.
Zemke, R. (2001). Here come the millennial′s. Training, 38, 7, 44-49.