Anselmian 360 Prepares First-Year Students for Life on the Hilltop

September 15, 2017

By Laura Lemire

On Friday night, 91 first-year students gathered in Ocean Park, Maine to discuss relationships, community, and values as part of the college's Anselmian 360 Program. Through a series of personal reflections presented by upperclassmen mentors, the new students were encouraged to reflect on themselves, the countless opportunities they will have to get involved, and "finding one's place" at Saint Anselm.

This unique, overnight experience was the second in a series of four trips that will take place over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year. The first, on August 8-9, included 140 incoming first-year students, and two trips are planned for the new year, one for first-year football players and a second regular trip, January 14-15.

An extension of the New Student Orientation program, Anselmian 360 (now in it's second year) is structured alongside the core curriculum Humanities Program, Conversatio, to further orient students to the opportunities available to them as Saint Anselm students, from finding tutors in the Academic Resource Center (ARC) to participating in a service trip, or joining one of the college's 60 plus clubs and organizations.

"The trip itself is designed to mirror their first semester of Conversatio: working their way through the Self, the Community, and the Divine. While Conversatio is certainly academic in nature, Anselmian 360's goal is to help personally connect those themes," says program director Sarah Catherine Richardson.

Each trip is structured around five talks by student-leaders on the Self, the Community, Relationships, Exploring, and Seeking. Students discuss topics such as their values and those of the college community, as well as developing meaningful relationships, and connecting with the community through active engagement and through one's personal faith.

"Our hope with Anselmian 360 is to make that transition [into college] a little smoother by giving the students the tools they need to get involved," says student-leader Teresa Yoder '18. "If I can help even just a handful of students discover themselves and their place within our Anselmian community then I'll feel accomplished."

Yoder, a small-group leader for this weekend's trip, got involved because she loved the program's mission. The English major is hopeful that participants will use what they learned during their four years on campus.

A testament to the value of the experience, first-year student Connor O'Brien recommends the program to incoming students. He attended the trip in early August, saying it helped him meet people. "It made the college transition smoother, already having friends before starting classes," he says.

Sarah El Khoury '21, who also attended the August trip, found the experience beneficial as well. She says she had fun and connected with many other attendees, including her roommate for the overnight, who has become her best friend on campus. She also says that the program prepared her academically and socially for life on the Hilltop. "Now I want to get involved and grow my circle," she says. Khoury has already applied for a few retreats through the Office of Campus Ministry and is looking at joining several clubs.

On Saturday, student-leader and a participant in last year's retreat, Madilyn Jones '20, a nursing major, spoke to the entire group about her personal experiences with relationships. As a participant, Jones recalled that hearing similar talks opened her eyes, helping her realize the support available on campus.

"Here is a safe haven and a home. Anselmian 360 made me realize, ‘oh, I have people.' And even if things, classes, teams, clubs change, you'll still have people to lean on," says Jones. "I've been so grateful to be with a group of people who are here for me and always build me up."

Anselmian 360 doesn't end with the overnight retreats. Richardson is working on additional opportunities for students to stay in touch, collaborating with the Meelia Center for Community Engagement to create service opportunities for participants, as well as planning a series of "Anselmian Pathways" events focused on "paths" that students might be interested in following, including service, spiritual growth, or leadership.

The Anselmian 360 program is supported by a generous gift from Dr. Raymond D. Laurion '54 and Rita Laurion (Mount St. Mary '52) of Rochester, N.H.