Think. Act. Lead.: Making Its Mark

February 24, 2017

Launched two years ago, the interactive mentorship program, Think. Act. Lead., is making its mark on campus. The program is driving students to both the Center for Writing and Academic Achievement and the Career Development Center. Increasingly, Stonehill students are receiving enhanced academic and professional preparation which results in more seniors graduating with firm post-college plans.

Focus on Mission

Think. Act. Lead., which takes its name from Stonehill’s mission statement, is both a program and a philosophy for working with students, according to Craig Kelley, dean of academic achievement.

Think. Act. Lead. is a way for us to take what we were already doing and focus it. We knew we offered students a great academic experience. We knew we offered them a great co-curricular and spiritual experience. This is a way for us to better coordinate these experiences,” he continues. “It is a way for us to come together as a community to get everyone—faculty, staff, and students—to see themselves as mentors of students.”

To that end, Kelley and Dean of Students Kevin Piskadlo have been meeting with small groups and offices across campus, explaining the program and encouraging members of the community to talk with students in ways that help them process their experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. “Ask them, what do they like and not like? What are they interested in? What might they want to do and why?” says Piskadlo.

“The goal,” continues Kelley, “is for each student to be more thoughtful and intentional about what they want to do, and to develop a better understanding and ability to communicate who they are as a person. Over time, students will be more successful and better positioned to be more competitive applicants.”

Honing the skill of telling their own story will be valuable when they’re interviewing for internships, jobs, graduate school, or post-graduate service experiences.

Combination Approach

Think. Act. Lead., which focuses on the holistic development of each student, combines high-tech and high-touch approaches, both funded by a two-year, $233,800 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation.*

The high-tech side includes mining the data collected during the admissions process—students’ GPA, class rank, SAT scores—to determine what supports they may need to succeed. “We’re also being much more intentional in assigning academic advisors,” Kelley continues.

“For example, that there are some faculty who are fantastic with undecided students, helping them with decision-making about majors. Others work really well with students who have more defined professional aspirations.”

At-risk students, as determined by the data analysis, are assigned a secondary advisor in either Academic Services & Advising or Intercultural Affairs, “someone who can follow up with them on a regular basis to make sure they’re connecting with their residential community or engaged in co-curricular activities, such as clubs, athletics, and volunteer service.”

On the high-touch front, “we revamped the First-Year Experience (FYE) course to incorporate the Think. Act. Lead. philosophy, with additional training for all facilitators,” says Piskadlo. The training stressed the importance of mentorship and encouraging students to connect with services such as the Career Development Center and the Center for Writing and Academic Achievement (CWAA).

Reaping Results

Last year, appointments at the Career Development Center were up by 45 percent last year over the previous academic year. Referrals to the CWAA were up 133 percent while visits increased by 41 percent. In addition, the College had a first-to-second year retention rate of 92.4 percent.

And although upper-class students have had less time under Think. Act. Lead., they also are responding positively. “We look at student outcomes at graduation. These can range from full-time jobs to a year or two of service, or from graduate school to the military,” Kelley explains.

In the Class of 2016, the largest in Stonehill’s history, 63 percent of seniors at the time of graduation reported outcomes. “That’s 142 more students with outcomes than in 2015 when the rate was 59 percent. In 2014, the outcomes rate was 52 percent.”

“We’re on an upward trajectory and we want to keep that up,” Piskadlo concludes. “We’re also excited by the community’s response. All of the successes we’ve experienced to date aren’t the result of a single person or office. You simply can’t get these kinds of results without the collective efforts of people across campus supporting and enhancing the experience of each student at Stonehill.”

*The Davis Educational Foundation was established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.