My Design expands in second year, looks toward future

(Atticus Rice / McDaniel Free Press).

In its second year, My Design, a January term course aimed at first-year students, made the jump from three sections to eight sections. Come 2020, the College is expecting about 20 sections.

“It was really great to see how the activities planned last year were applicable and helpful to another set of students,” said Barbara Swartz, Ph.D., the coordinator for My Design since its inception and a professor in the education department.

The course is designed to help students identify their strengths, areas of personal growth, and personal and professional goals, as well as assist in understanding the importance of a liberal arts education, according to the official course objectives.

Instructors from 10 departments were given the opportunity to bring their expertise to a My Design class, some teaching alongside colleagues.

“Each instructor was able to put their own ‘stamp’ on things,” said Swartz, “and through our collaboration, we are revising the course for the future to keep making improvements.”

The specifics on more than doubling the number of sections–and students enrolled–are still in the works, said Swartz.

“We are simply building on all of the pieces that worked well these first two rounds,” she said.

Students enrolled have enjoyed the course so far.

“My Design was super introspective and it helped me discover new priorities in my life while relegating lesser priorities to things I want to pursue after college,” said first year Katie Adelizzi. “Ultimately a great experience I would recommend to any freshman.”

Journal reflections, which students filled out during the course, yielded similar results.

“I have always been aware of my strengths, interests, career ideas, and areas of growth,” wrote an anonymous sophomore. “However, My Design allowed me to not only clearly identify my strengths, but also expand on applications for them.”

In addition to a diversity of faculty, My Design was assisted by four student leaders who supported instructors in class and students outside of class.

The student leaders also organized a calendar of activities to keep students busy while out of class.

My Design is the second part of the four-part McDaniel Commitment, which is gradually being rolled out. The first, My Place, was satisfied by the four McDaniel Local sessions offered last summer. That, too, will be scaled up to impact most of the incoming class.

As part of the development-and career-oriented program, students had a number of unique opportunities during the three-week course.

“Students complete a number of team-building activities and even work with others in the class to complete an escape room based on the seven traditional liberal arts,” said Swartz. “They develop an understanding of the importance of a liberal arts education.”

Students also have the opportunity to visit local workplaces, organized by the Center for Experience & Opportunity, as well as make connections with alumni.

Swartz believes that the My Design course has a positive effect on all types of students.

“My Design is a class for everyone,” she said. “We want students in their first year to develop a stronger relationship with themselves, their peers, and the McDaniel community. The McDaniel Commitment is a way to ensure every student has the opportunity to experience everything that McDaniel has to offer.”

Samantha Nguyen appreciated the ease of the class as it allowed her to build relationships.

“I got to know new friends, understand my majors more, and connect with a lot of inspiring alumni,” the first-year said. “The class was not stressful at all; it was a good start for my spring term.”

Though My Design will be mandatory for all first-years starting next year, Swartz doesn’t believe that that requirement will take a toll on other Jan terms. She thinks that two will be the new standard–My Design and one other.

Mandatory My Design also means that students can take two on-campus Jan terms free of tuition charges, she said.

Gunnar Ward contributed to this article.