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Life Lessons

New program further prepares students for the future

What do you want to do with your life?

It’s a question college students often ponder, and one that Olivia Dunn, ’24, feels more comfortable answering now that she’s completed a new program at Bridgewater State University.

“I feel less overwhelmed with post-college planning,” said Olivia, a criminal justice major and social work minor who aims to work with children, possibly as a counselor. “I learned steps to take right now to help me feel more prepared and excited about choosing a career.”

Olivia recently completed the Life Design program as part of her work as a BSU justice fellow. The new initiative, based off a concept developed at Stanford University, helps students think through decisions and overcome obstacles, such as choosing a career.

Life Design takes place at BSU in a variety of ways, including two-day studios, required programming for first-year students, and a one-credit class through the Department of Communication Studies.

Three students sit at a table drawing mind maps during a Life Design workshop.

“We see this as a way of helping all our students think early and often about where they’re going in their lives,” said Carol Crosby, associate director of the Internship Office, and one of several Bridgewater staff and faculty who completed Life Design training with Stanford.

Through the program, students learn about their values and personality and how those shape their future. They develop concrete action steps to reach their goals and begin taking those steps.

No one can control everything about their future, so students can – and should – use their Life Design skills throughout their lives, said Dr. Michele Meek, an assistant professor of communication studies who teaches the program’s one-credit course.

“The work is never done,” said Meek, who incorporates anxiety management techniques into her class. “It’s an iterative process where you’re constantly assessing how things go and rethinking what pivots you might want to make.”

Life Design participants also learn about the many resources on campus. Some offices, such as Career Services, remain available for alumni.

Justice fellows praised several aspects of the program, including exercises to understand their personality and map out on paper aspects of their lives.

“This workshop benefited me in not just feeling confident with where I want to go but how what I want to do will impact others in the workplace,” said Max Bertrand, ’25, a sociology major and psychology minor.

For Erin McGuire, ’24, major goals that once seemed scary now feel attainable.

"There’s a lot of stress that comes with being a college student and deciding your future in these 4-5 years,” said Erin, a social work major and communication disorders minor. “It eased my anxiety about the future.”

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