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Helping students find direction

University implements Compass Program

Alyssa Milstead

Fall 2014 marks the debut of the Compass Program within the Knowledge to Action project.

Beginning in their first year at Willamette, students will participate in mandatory, non-credit

courses designed to aid in their academic career and future vocations.

CLA Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs Marlene Moore said Campus Life developed

the Compass program in collaboration with CLA to ensure the success of Willamette students.

“We just want you to know how to plan, rather than waiting for something to land on your

doorstep,” Moore said.

The Knowledge to Action project focuses on the concepts of actualization, integration and

reflection.

“There’s a reason we have [students] live together in a community and do all of these curricular

and co-curricular activities. We realize that’s a very different education than just taking classes

online or at a big state school,” Moore said. “People need to explicitly find time to reflect, time to

integrate, time to think about how they’re going to carry something out.”

For two years, faculty and administrative groups on campus have been working to create a

mainstream program that integrates knowledge and action for students.

In fall of 2013, Dean of Campus Life David Douglass piloted a program.

“We had student mentors facilitate a series of steps that look a little bit like the exercises we are

using now,” Douglass said. “We learned a lot from that.”

Senior psychology and music major Jill Mayer is a vocational exploration intern at the Career

Center. Mayer said she is well aware of the improvement of today’s program compared to the

pilot of last fall.

“There was a lot of negative feedback,” Mayer said. “[The revised program] is a lot more

streamlined, and we’re using tools that are tried and tested by the Career Center.”

Over the summer, Mayer worked closely with Douglass to edit materials for the workshops. Due

to her involvement with Big Life Plan workshops and the Career Center, Mayer recognizes the

importance of reflection and planning.

“This is the administration’s attempt to normalize vocational discernment,” Mayer said.

The Compass Program consists of three stages: the Colloquium Compass, College Compass

and Connection Compass.

The Colloquium Compass consists of a non-credit, required course that helps students set

goals for their initial years at college, while developing an e-portfolio on the Google program

Digication.

The Class of 2018 is currently involved in the Colloquium Compass. For six weeks, first-year

students will meet each Tuesday for one-hour workshops.

Once the initial six weeks are completed, the students will experience a break from the non-
credit class until the end of October. At that time, students will attend two more weekly meetings

to learn about registration for the spring semester.

Douglass does not envision the Colloquium Compass to be an intrusion for first-year students.

“This is an attempt to give them as much information as they need when they need it, but not

add too much to their workload,” Douglass said.

The next stage of the Compass Program, the College Compass, occurs in the second year and

focuses on the major of each student. Finally, students can choose to complete the Connection

Compass, which looks on to graduate schools and potential careers.

Moore said that the Compass Program does not limit students and the routes that they may

choose at Willamette or in post-graduate career.

Douglass said he believes that this program will allow students to be aware of their options, both

at Willamette and in future endeavors.

“I’m very cautious about requiring things of anybody,” Douglass said. “But if you aren’t informed

on the choices you’re making, then there really is no choice.”

amilstea@willamette.edu

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