A View from College Hill
Educating the Whole Student
by terry Martinez
Six months ago, I arrived at Hamilton eager to learn about the community and its culture from those who know it best. I’ve met with students in small groups over meals, at meetings, and at lectures, performances, and athletic competitions. I’ve heard accounts about what excites them, what’s important to them, and where we can, together, make improvements to those areas that are less satisfying.
As I explored this picturesque campus, I’ve found that the Root Glen is one of my favorite places to walk and reflect; the Sadove Center living room provides a warm and comfortable spot to catch up; Café Opus is a great place to get the pulse of current events; and I can always find groups of students working together in KJ. My conclusions will come as no surprise to my colleagues or alumni — Hamilton is a wonderful place to live, learn, and grow.
At the same time, the campus experienced some profound sadness during my brief time on College Hill following the deaths of two students and a professor. The cumulative effect of the loss of lives was palpable and amplified for me the sense of family this special place provides. Campus community members at every level worked together in numerous ways to immediately care for and tend to a collective mending heart. We knew we needed to do more, and several community initiatives emerged:
- Representatives from each division participated in gatekeeper suicide-prevention training and then took what they learned back to their respective units to teach colleagues about warning signs. These individuals now serve also as liaisons to the Counseling Center. Similar training was developed by students for students interested in educating their peers on signs of suicide.
- Students, faculty, and staff formed a working group to focus on factors known to contribute to a highly stressful environment and to educate our community on ways to stay healthy.
- THRIVE, a new course on mindfulness, was created for students interested in better managing stress and finding greater fulfillment.
I’m proud to be part of a community where ideas not only surface, but are cultivated and allowed to flourish in ways that lead to collective ownership in addressing important issues and a greater sense of wellbeing.
A National Dilemma
Every day, headlines call our attention to campus mental health issues, alcohol and substance abuse, Title IX violations and sexual harassment, student protests and controversial speakers, hazing and other acts of violence, and general threats to campus safety. The work of student affairs professionals in higher education is often defined by these problems. At Hamilton, we’re building a framework to address these issues with three particular goals in mind. As the leader of my division, I want to ensure that our campus is healthy and safe, one that is diverse and inclusive, and one that provides our students with meaningful opportunities for engagement. Our focus should be on educating the whole student in an environment that supports learning.
Our Work Ahead
Considering the above-stated issues, our new strategic plan calls for us to re-envision the four-year residential experience. What can we intentionally do outside of the classroom that complements the learning that takes place in the classroom? How can we better coordinate opportunities for interactions and community-building, and address wellbeing for an ever-changing diverse student body? My team and I will be wrestling with these questions over the next several years.
Partnering with our academic colleagues will be critical to defining Hamilton’s residential experience. As I continue to build relationships across campus, I look forward to discovering common purposes and shared goals that provide students with a rich educational experience — one that allows them to learn and grow, fail and continue, and challenge themselves to become better versions of themselves.