Redefining the Student Experience
What is STEP and How did it Impact Me?
– A Blog Post by Sangeet Brar
Redefining the Student Experience. That is what The Ohio State University (OSU) works towards with its investment in its sophomores through the Second-year Transformational Experience Program (STEP).
When students come back to campus for their second year, they’ve often lost touch with the energy they had coming into their first year of college. They usually know where all their classes are, they’ve joined different organizations, they’ve made close friends and they are acclimated to campus culture. The First Year Experience program at Ohio State does a wonderful job of introducing first-years to campus. Because of FYE’s success, OSU wanted to go beyond the first year and prevent its second-years from falling into the “sophomore slump”.
An Innovative Program in Higher Education. After conducting extensive research on predictors of second-year student success, OSU developed STEP to engage students through campus involvement, peer interaction and faculty mentorship. STEP faculty mentors play a large role in shaping students’ experiences and in helping them develop a plan for their signature projects. After completing program requirements, students are eligible to receive a $2,000 STEP fellowship to apply to a signature project of their choice. This project can be in one of six categories: Creative and Artistic Endeavors, Internships, Leadership, Service-Learning and Community Service, Education Abroad and Undergraduate Research.
My STEP Experience. STEP is such a unique program, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it. The two main factors that went into making my experience so impactful were my faculty mentor and my signature project. Dr. Matta was the best STEP faculty mentor I could have possibly asked for; he truly played a critical role in shaping my sophomore year of college. Every week our cohort, made up of a variety of majors, would meet and discuss a range of topics. Dr. Matta catered conversations to what our cohort wanted to learn. We talked about personal branding, the importance of meditation and self-reflection, leveraging our LinkedIn profiles and practicing our public speaking. Our time in STEP helped develop us not only in our school lives but also professionally and personally.
One really unique aspect of our cohort was that Dr. Matta took us on a trip to Chicago in the spring. This weekend experience gave us insight into a number of companies in the city. We got to meet with alumni and executives at media agencies like Jack Morton and Ogilvy & Mather and tech companies like LinkedIn. Though we did a lot of professional development on this trip, we also got to experience Chicago as tourists. We tried Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza and got to go to Skydeck at Willis Tower to see a beautiful view of the city from its tallest skyscraper. Overall, the trip really brought our cohort closer together, and we made memories that will last a lifetime.
STEP Signature Project. Through my STEP fellowship I was able to fund and complete my signature project in the summer following my sophomore year. For my project I chose to do a two month long internship in London, England. I worked at a consulting firm right in the heart of the city. My office overlooked Tower Bridge, City Hall and River Thames; I don’t know if I’ll ever work in a more scenic business district. My project was exactly what STEP had planned it to be – it was transformational. I learned so much about the consulting industry and business, all while I was immersed in a different culture in a place I’d never visited before. Living abroad for such a long period of time and becoming a local in such a historical and culturally rich city is something I could never have done if it were not for my STEP fellowship.
Dr. Matta has touched the lives of so many students through his work as a STEP faculty mentor. Without him our signature experiences and time in the program would not have been the same. He taught us the importance of building relationships, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and practicing constant self-reflection. As members of Dr. Matta’s STEP cohort, my peers and I were pushed to give more to discussions and engage thoughtfully with one another. Both the Second-year Transformational Experience Program and Dr. Matta played a vital role in developing me as a student and gave me opportunities that changed my life – they redefined my student experience.