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Freshman Success Through Stress Support: Developing a Course of Action Essay

College should serve as preparation for students’ careers and the instillation of positive behaviors that will assist them in coping with stress in the workplace. Completing college coursework is a job in and of itself and stress management seminars and the like are part of many workplaces. So the campus and the workplace should mirror one another in respect to stress management. Freshman have unique stressors in the fact that this is most likely the first experience with living outside of his or her comfort zone. Without reasonably proximal support, Freshman will have to learn to develop a new support network as a buffer to stress.

This course/seminar will address both the causes of stress, its effects, and positive coping mechanisms. In addition the course will provide a forum for students to begin empathizing and supporting one another. Most importantly, since the campus should be viewed as a parallel to the workplace, this class will deal with burnout, a term used most often in relation to work, but should be introduced as part of what students may experience throughout their college careers. Objective: The objective here is to avoid student burnout and the health risks that are posed with chronic stress in this population.

This course is especially important for student retention as it is my hypothesis that less students will drop-out after completing the course. Need: Studies and literature available on the subject demonstrate a huge need for primary prevention in the form of a class that addresses stress issues. Students may have to learn how to manage multitasking (as many students have jobs in addition to school). There are, also, special needs for student athletes in dealing with their stress, stress arising from deadlines and work overload, and stress that is caused by the onslaught of processing massive amounts of information.

Many students are living on their own for the first time in their lives, so they can learn basic wellness skills to combat stress and ways to recognize unhealthy behaviors that may preclude illness, student burnout and/or dropout. Benefits: The benefits are clear that student retention would be advantageous to the university and there would be a forum open so that students can begin to communicate with others about their stress. Students could then reach out for social support which proves as an all-important buffer to this. Qualifications of Personnel:

Since stress affects individuals in physiological, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional ways, the professors should have experience in these areas of study. Professors of business are, also, importantly qualified to help students, who have jobs in addition to their schoolwork. Sources: A variety of sources were utilized to put together this proposal and to validate all points made here. Kahn, R. L. (1981). Work and Health. New York:Wiley. Oltmanns T. F. & Emery R. E. (2001). Abnormal Psychology. Ed. 3. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Pearlin, L. (1999).

“Sociological Study of Stress” in A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health: Social Context, Theories, Systems. Thoits, P. (1999). “Sociological Approaches to Mental Illness” in A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health: Social Context, Theories, Systems UCLA Service learning Clearinghouse Project. (1999). 1999 Freshman Survey Results – Higher Education Research Institute: “Record numbers of the nation’s freshmen feel high degree of stress”. Wheaton, B. (1999). “The Nature of Stressors” in A Handbook for the study of Mental Health: Social Context, Theories, Systems.

Limitations and Contingencies: Course participation should be contingent for all incoming freshman. Unfortunately, students who transfer in in a higher grade will not be given the benefit of this course. Scope: With a 1 credit hour course, there will be only 1 hour per week for each class. There should be classes offered in the day and in the evening to accommodate working students. The course delivery should be that of a weekly seminar with professors volunteering their time for the “pilot” class for the first 15 week semester.

The classes/seminars will address the definition of different types of stress, coping mechanisms for dealing with it, and the positive nature of forming networks of support as a buffer. More detailed seminars will provide information on behavioral, physiological, emotional, and cognitive levels of stress to help students recognize these personally. Plan Objectives and Methods: The objectives as stated above are to prevent stress-related health problems and to ensure student retention. Pre-testing and post-testing these students will prove the success of the course.

Stress levels before Freshman are immersed in the course should be surveyed (on the first day of class) with a questionnaire developed by myself. I will then re-test the students in a longitudinal survey for the Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. A second exit survey will need to be developed. Drop-out rates will be recorded and both these students and students, who opt to transfer will be given a separate study to analyze whether or not stress was a precursor to their leaving or if other factors contributed to this.

Timetable: There will need to be approximately 8 weeks to develop a course of action. I will have to develop three separate surveys based on other similar studies. 15 professors will need to be recruited to volunteer 1 hour to teach their seminars. Professors in the social sciences, business, health and wellness/physical education, and nursing are all good candidates. If there is a problem with recruiting all 15 from the faculty, some outstanding Seniors can come in to talk about their own experiences with stress.

The professors will all be assigned a week and can prepare by “exchanging notes” at a faculty meeting the week before the semester starts to ensure that there is no redundancy in the classes. Materials and Equipment: Each professor will have to determine whether or not they need to borrow materials such as overhead projectors, televisions and other viewing equipment, and dvds or vhs tapes from the library and/or media services. If they chose they may bring in pamphlets, handouts, or other material as they would in the course of any other class. No textbook will be needed and students will be less stressed with having to pay for a textbook!

I may require a student assistant to help me develop the questionnaires and if we do this over the summer in preparation for the fall semester, one outstanding student could receive credit as a research practicum. The only material that will incur cost is the paper for the surveys and the SPSS software needed to analyze survey data. Personnel: Myself, and possibly my assistant, and the 15 professors (or possibly a few Seniors if 15 professors cannot be procured) will make up the personnel. It will be up to the president of the university to assign a dean to oversee the class.

It may fall into the school of medicine, nursing, or psychology, which is up to the president. Available facilities: The program could be in the athletic center (gym) and adjacent classrooms when they are not being used. Needed facilities: As stated above, personnel would need the gym and adjacent classrooms for their respective seminars. When the classes are more informative as to stress and stress responses a classroom could be utilized. When professors decide that they want to teach stress-relieving techniques (tai-chi, yoga, or others) they would need the gym to do this. Cost:

The beauty of this program is that the cost for the pilot class is none (except for paper and printer ink! ) SPSS software is already on the university computer system, professors will volunteer their time, as would I. Any assistants utilized could do so for college credit and not for pay. All the surveys could be administered directly on site, so postage and mailing will not be necessary. Expected Results: I expect that incoming Freshman will have better tools for understanding and dealing with stress. Retention rates will increase and bonds will be formed with the students and different members of the faculty.

The latent effect of this course will be that students will, also, see their professors’ volunteerism and hopefully wish to volunteer and engage in service learning, which is an important component of higher education. Feasibility: Due to the fact that there is little cost (as stated before only for paper and printer cartridges! ) this program is very feasible. Professors will be excited to be a part of this program as this is a ground-breaking course. Also, it should be set up as a model for other institutions to follow.

For this reason, retaining professors to volunteer should be relatively easy. Students will have to take the course as part of their requirements in either the first or second semester, and with one day seminar one semester and one night seminar the second semester, therefore all students will have the chance to fit it into their schedules. It should be discussed with the chosen dean as to how to fit it in during the summer sessions, which may be necessary so that all students have the class. Conclusion and Recommendations: Summary of Key Points:

Stress can cause physiological, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive changes in individuals without positive coping mechanisms and a positive support network as a buffer. Freshman are more vulnerable to this as they must develop a new social network to buffer the stresses they will face. Many students hold jobs, participate in athletics, and must learn to process massive amounts of information. Multi-tasking can be extremely stressful with students that have new freedom as Freshman, that which they did not have living at home. This course will be ground-breaking and will serve as a model to other institutions.

Survey data will prove that over-all well-being of students is better for this cohort and retention rates will increase, which the data will demonstrate. The cost is minimal and the need maximal. Additionally, students will get to meet a large array of professors that they may encounter in later classes and some which they may not. Many may find mentors in some of these professors and friends in the course. Additionally, through witnessing the volunteerism of these professors, students may become engaged in volunteering and service learning themselves, which is a positive and necessary element to higher learning.

Request for Action: I request that this university serious consider the opportunity that is presented in putting this course into the Freshman curriculum. The retention rates will be monetarily advantageous to the university and the cost of implementing this program will be extremely minimal. The course will be enjoyable to students, as they will be engaged in different activities each week. It will, also, be satisfying to the professors involved in this ground-breaking project. I would say from a cost: benefit ratio the numbers will speak for themselves.

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