First-years embark on new purposeful path

First-year students share shout-outs of the day to start the class in McCarthy. As part of the new purposeful learning program first-year students take a one credit class that meets twice a week. One day a week all first-years meet as a large group and the second day students meet in a smaller classroom setting.

Tess Curran | Co-Executive Editor |

Engaging and transitioning into a new community is a struggle many students face. The new Center of Purposeful Learning is a two part program that assists the first-year students in their transition from high school to college and helps them make meaningful decisions regarding their college experience throughout their four years on campus.

     The first part is the Student Success Advisors program which pairs new students with a success advisor as well as an academic and career advisor. The success advisors are located in Joyce Hall near the entrance to the mailroom. The second part is a one credit class students attend twice a week, run by Director of Purposeful Learning, Heidi St. Peter ’96. The design for success advisors was an extended version of the already existing advising program, but with three new advisors all playing different roles. “This is a fresh new beginning, and as scary as sometimes that is, it also can be liberating. This is your opportunity to really look at what you really enjoy and figure out how do you get involved.” said St. Peter about the center’s importance.

     Throughout the first eight weeks of the fall and spring semesters, the first-year class will be exploring the idea of purpose. The first-year class meets all together on Mondays for the big group session to discuss different topics such as important people to know on campus and wellness. Later in the week they meet in small groups. “Think what their vocation may look like, what maybe their passions and talents are, and getting to know one another in that class,” is how the small groups help the students said Vernita Weller, who formerly worked in Admission and is now one of the three success advisors. These small groups give them an opportunity to make new friendships while also working on personal growth as both a student and person. “I feel like the purposeful learning class is great way to help with the adjustment into college,” said Maggie Dockray ’26, a first-year in the class who is also on the Cross Country team. “Also having the small class environment once a week allows me to connect with my peers on a closer level,”

     Students are required to do three engagements, which are a way to interact with the community through activities or club meetings. These engagements give them insight into what is offered on campus. For her small group’s engagement, Weller asked her students to interview three people on what purpose means to them. “This gave them the opportunity to explore the idea of purpose, not just from us in the classroom talking about it, but from others,” Weller said.

     Each Success Advisor has about 90 students that they help throughout the year. The advisors help answer some of the bigger questions in life, such as figuring out what major they want to be in, how they want to be involved on campus, or even what brings them joy in life. “We listen to what students’ needs are and work with them in whatever capacity we can,” said Katie Barry ’19, a success advisor at the center.

     Lou DiMasi, former Director of Student Life and Residence Life, came back from retirement to join the program as a success advisor. He said when students come to St. Michael’s many already know what major they want to study , what activities or sports to join, but on the other side many students have no clue. “Our goal both individually and institutionally through Purposeful Learning is to assist our students to realize the true effect of their Purpose,” DiMasi said.

     Throughout the year the first-year class will learn about different aspects of the school as well as themselves through panels, activities, and other community-based events. The program will be a stepping stone that will push students to look deeper into themselves in order to find their path  at St. Michael’s College and beyond. As of right now there is no direct connection to the current upperclassmen but the idea of a one credit career class for future upperclassmen has been discussed. “I do think this will help with my transition into college and finding both my people and a balance between social life and academics.” said Dockray ’26. The Center’s team hopes this will impact the community as a whole and create a new generation of Purple Knights. “The community here, the students here, the faculty and staff here – the cause and purpose here is something very special,” said DiMasi.

     If students are unsure who their Success Advisor is, they can go on KnightVision, under Academics Student Planning to find out. Students can also make appointments with their advisors via these links:

Katie Barry-

Lou DiMasi-