“My Columbia College Journey” Encourages Holistic View of Students' Development

From Dante’s travels through the afterlife to Odysseus’ post-war wanderings, Columbia College students are no strangers to contemplating the journeys that take place in literature’s essential works.

dining tables in Low Library's Rotunda


Now they’re being asked to consider one closer to home: their own.

That’s the goal of My Columbia College Journey, a new initiative that encourages undergraduates to reflect on their life at the College — and beyond — in real time. It advocates taking a holistic view of personal development rather than defining oneself in academic terms. This more rounded view encompasses what’s learned in the classroom (while deemphasizing grades and transcripts, or the urge to overly identify with a major), taking into account the lessons and influences of extracurriculars, residential life, internships, research, community engagement and more.

Ultimately the Journey aims to help students be more aware of their skills, their interests and how they want to grow; make thoughtful decisions about their academic and co-curricular life; and understand and articulate the many ways the College shapes them.

“The Journey encourages you to see the interconnectedness of your experiences for the very first time, to examine all the possibilities your mind can envision and to ask yourself questions that will focus on the process — not just the outcome,” Dean James J. Valentini said to the nearly 300 students who attended the Journey launch on April 9. Held in Low Rotunda, it featured discussion and a family-style dinner with staff and faculty members.

The Journey has been more than three years in the making, having grown out of faculty conversations by the Committee on Instruction during the 2015–16 academic year. It is grounded in a set of 13 “Core Competencies,” which are focal points for reflection and provide a shared language for the entire College community to talk about their journeys. The competencies are civic and individual responsibility; community engagement and inclusion; creativity and innovation; critical thinking; global awareness; information and technological literacy; knowledge; oral communication; teamwork and collaboration; research; quantitative literacy; wellness and resilience; and written communication.

While the initiative does not have any required elements, students are encouraged to share their stories on the My Columbia College Journey website, which offers questions to promote reflection about each of the competencies and helps students find an advisor to help with the process.

“Not all of what you learn is in class,” said Dustin Rubenstein, associate professor of ecology, evolution and environmental biology, at the launch. “It’s important for you to challenge yourself and get outside your comfort zone.”