Countless second-year students at Ohio State breathed a heavy sigh of relief as they click to upload and submit their final copies of projects that they have poured a decent amount of blood, sweat and tears into.
As Ohio State’s pilot year of the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program comes to a close, students and faculty alike took a moment to reflect on the aftermath of the experience and share predictions for the future year.
According to the STEP website, the program “was developed as a continuation of the university’s effort to redefine the student experience.” One thousand second-year students volunteered to live on campus and fulfill the participant requirements while engaging with their peers and assigned faculty member to create a project that fit the needs of each individual and what they hoped to get out of their sophomore year.
Participant requirements included attending a weekly meeting with assigned faculty, attending and submitting reflections on three approved co-curriculars, completing a financial literacy program with the Student Wellness Center and developing a written proposal and budget of how they intend to use the fellowship provided by the university of up to $2,000.
With the first year of the program coming to a close, Vicki Pitstick, STEP program manager, revealed the rewards and challenges she has experienced during the program.
“I work mostly with the STEP faculty members. The most rewarding part has been getting to know all of them and learning what I can do to serve as an advocate and resource for them. The other rewarding part is getting to assist in the development of this new, exciting program. The most challenging part is figuring out how to serve the needs of many different types of students, and many different types of faculty while creating a quality program,” Pitstick said.
Faculty STEP mentor Anna Soter also shared the benefits of the journey.
“Relationship building, opportunities to help students discover strengths within, discover each other as resources, building community within the group and the larger STEP community, working with other faculty across disciplines and thinking big. These are what I consider the most rewarding aspects of my year with STEP,” Soter said.
What goes up must come down, and Soter did have a few frustrations involving her understanding of what the bottom line was on requirements and a clear sense of the vision of the program in general.
Participant and neuroscience major Julia Aminov shared concerns about the program as well.
“The most challenging part of serving as a pilot year member did just not know how to get access to different STEP requirements such as the outlines for what our proposal was supposed to look like,” she said.
Across the board, there was a general consensus of the overall outcome of STEP to be one in the positive direction.
“Some of the things we were hoping for STEP was students to build community in cohorts and increased student-faculty interaction. Based on the feedback we have received thus far, these things have happened,” Pitstick said.
Aminov felt optimistic in the program to advocate it on to future students.
“I would definitely recommend participating in STEP to future students because it’s an opportunity to do something we love and are passionate about. A lot of students have so many goals and dreams but don’t have the money or time to fund it. STEP gives those students the chance to set aside some time and get money to achieve something they’ve always wanted to do,” Aminov said.
With this test year now over, the STEP board hopes to take the experiences and feedback into consideration and put them into good use. Pitstick has high hopes for years to come.
“There are many things we look to make better including providing more resources and support for the faculty and the students, getting students more involved with the workings of STEP through a STEP Student Ambassador Program and a STEP Student Advisory Council; assisting students with the reflecting and reporting back process in order to start sharing the amazing projects students are doing and finding ways to spread the word about this incredible program,” Pitstick said.
Amanda Stefanik participated in the STEP program.