Best of Luck, Yourself
Students Offer Advice to Their Future Selves As Part of Elms’ Senior Colloquium By Jaclyn C. Stevenson Editor’s note: The core curriculum at Elms College emphasizes communication skills, critical thinking skills, and spiritual and physical well-being. As freshmen in First Year Seminar, students are exposed to global awareness and cultural understanding. As seniors, they are asked to reflect upon their growth in Senior Colloquium. The course offers students the chance to personally connect to life’s big questions and see for themselves how much they’ve changed in the past four years.
fundamentally held beliefs concerning race, class, gender, and sexuality in contemporary society. On a more personal level, Stelzer explained that the seminar also invites students nearing degree completion to explore various attributes and attitudes that can contribute to what he calls “meaningful adult living.”
For decades, on college campuses everywhere, students have been asked to write their own obituaries. This exercise is meant to stretch the writing muscle, but also gives the writers a chance to examine their goals and dreams, as well as their expectations of what their lives will look like in retrospect.
Remembrance and Reminders
It can also be a bit of a morbid task. With that in mind, Fr. Mark Stelzer, Ph.D., who leads Elms’ Senior Colloquium, assigned his students a similar project steeped in a more forwardthinking hope: write a letter to yourself, he instructed, to be opened ten years from today. Designed as a capstone course of the core curriculum for all graduating seniors across various majors, the Senior Colloquium – also known as the Colloquium on Social Justice – is intended to create an opportunity for students to examine and discuss some of society’s most
“In that letter, they were asked to remind themselves of important lessons learned from the Senior Colloquium,” Stelzer explained.
The ideas behind Catholic teachings are explored with more depth, creating connections between religious philosophy and everyday life that may not have existed for the students before. One student writes in their ten-year letter, “You have been exposed to Catholic teaching in church for years through formal CCD, generations of faith programs, and through weekly church experiences. The breakdown of what Catholic social teaching really is, however, had escaped you. “The principles are there in each lesson but they have never been explained … how it came to be and evolved into current teachings, and where it applies in day-to-day life. The parts that stuck out the most were about generosity and sharing of wealth.”
It’s these broad thoughts and “a-ha moments” that Stelzer says are the true objective of the Senior Colloquium, and they come to each student in different ways and different times. “Always in the light of social teaching, the aim is to get students thinking about life’s big questions, making connections between who we are and what we do,” he said, noting that there’s some inevitable debate, but most often a lot of discussion. “We talk about rights and responsibilities, the dignity of work, and readdress the college’s core values of Faith, Community, Justice, and Excellence as we examine how prepared the students are for the rest of their adult lives.” Victoria Smyth, a senior who just completed the colloquium, said the lessons of the course did more than prepare her for future challenges; it offered her a level of insight on her present life she says she didn’t recognize prior. “The Senior Colloquium class helped me focus on my experience at Elms College,” she began. “It allowed me to dig into my past and realize what I gained from being here. It helped me realize all that I have in life and started to make me a better person, because the world hasn’t been cruel to me despite some of my failures, but left me with so many important things.”
Elms College Magazine Spring | 2014