The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

June 4, 2014

Beyond academics: coaching college students through personal development

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 — The challenge faced by liberal arts universities is producing students who are prepared for much more than a job. The mark of a successful higher education experience is a graduate who is ready also for the decision making and responsibility of conscientious adulthood and citizenship.

Many first-year students arrive on campus lacking the skills or experience needed for rigorous academic pursuit, wise time management and navigating complex interpersonal relationships — factors that foretell academic success or failure depending one’s ability to master them.

Pfeiffer University, through its Pfeiffer Journey program, is on a course to becoming the only university in the country committed to immersing every student in a “culture of coaching” — in the classroom, on the athletic field, in residence halls and with student organizations – from the moment they enroll until they cross the stage to accept their diplomas.

Since 2011, Pfeiffer Journey has connected incoming students to university life in ways designed to increase their likelihood of academic success and sustained enrollment. All freshmen participate in an emotional intelligence assessment that indicates to their assigned coaches or mentors (faculty and staff members trained especially to guide the first-year experience) their current levels of maturity and readiness for the challenges ahead. They also participate in required, for-credit courses that spark personal growth through interdisciplinary learning; experiential practice; career exploration and direction; leadership training; civic and service involvement; and personal, social and spiritual inquiry.

Based on the successful integration of Pfeiffer Journey into the freshman curriculum, this fall the program expands to include sophomores. Research indicates that during the second year, students enter the most challenging point of a college career, both academically and personally.

Exposed to new possibilities during the first year, sophomores often change their minds about their original choice of major as they contemplate future careers. In addition, these students will partner with seniors from their majors, providing sophomores important peer mentors and seniors a significant leadership opportunity.  

Eventually, through support from the Office of Career Development and other university departments, the program will more deeply engage upperclassmen as they transition to careers or graduate study.  

A vital and unique component of Pfeiffer Journey is the compilation of an electronic portfolio created by each student, providing a tangible record of his or her undergraduate accomplishments that includes career-related projects, writing samples, artwork, awards and other relevant entries gathered over four years.

By the time this year’s freshmen graduate and prepare to draft resumes or complete graduate school applications, they will have evidence of their readiness for the next step of their lives.

With an institutional priority to educate the whole student, Pfeiffer provides students the tools required for purposeful lives and careers. Promoting and providing mentored, progressive personal development sets Pfeiffer apart — and is key to enhanced student engagement and persistence, the precursors to staying the course through graduation and crafting successful post-collegiate lives.  

Michael C. Miller, president of Pfeiffer University, shares information monthly in the SNAP about Pfeiffer’s programs and the ways the university is fulfilling its mission. To learn about Pfeiffer’s academic and athletic programs, strategic plan and community partnerships, contact him at (704) 463-3030; mike.miller@ or visit


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