This story is sponsored by The Ohio State University at Mansfield.
MANSFIELD — In Columbus, the Ohio State University’s Second-year Transformational Experience program (STEP) has benefited second-year students for eight years, and the Mansfield campus is excited to accelerate their program as well.
In 2019, STEP expanded to regional campuses. Before the pandemic caused a halt to the normal campus life, STEP was budding in Mansfield.
“STEP is a program designed for sophomore students to get mentoring and resources that will help them to achieve their professional and personal goals in college,” said Cynthia Callahan, a professor and coordinator for the program.
Often, second-year students are overlooked. There are commonly many programs that serve first year students and upperclassmen, but sophomores tend to fall between the cracks when it comes to opportunities and support.
“This program was developed to provide these students with high impact practices and different experiences to help them at a moment where they may be trying to determine who they are and what they need to do to transition into the workforce after college,” Callahan said.
Former STEP participant Katelyn McDonald was part of the first class on the Mansfield campus before COVID hit. She looks back on her experience fondly, specifically the relationships she formed with her mentor, Dr. Ozeas Costa, and with Cynthia and fellow students.
“I look back on STEP with such fond memories, there’s not one instance where I look back on it negatively. It was really one of my favorite things I’ve participated in in college so far,” McDonald said. “It’s a really nice place to build friendships and build more community within your campus.”
When the program begins during the fall semester, students participate in engaging discussions and activities with a small group of peers and mentors to set goals, build community, explore one’s identity, and grow personally. During the spring semester, the mentors of the program guide students through the process of creating a proposal for a STEP Signature Project. In the end, there is a fellowship opportunity of up to $2,000 to use towards the project.
“They identify the project they want to do and they put together a proposal and a budget,” Callahan said, “We work with the students to help align the proposal with the values they identified and the things they want to achieve. Once the proposal is approved, that money is available for them to use for the project.”
Katelyn’s project was an EcoLab fellowship on the Ohio State Mansfield campus, which included lots of outdoor field work.
“We did a lot of invasive species removal among hiking trails on campus and in the open field areas that are easily visible to the public just to make things look nicer and more put together,” McDonald said.
Originally, McDonald was a part of a group that was set to go to Costa Rica, but unfortunately the plans had to be scrapped due to the pandemic. However, she made the best of it and is still encouraged to continue onward.
“It takes a lot of perseverance to keep pivoting,” Callahan said.
The mentors and students are excited to see how the program grows. To learn more about STEP at OSU-M and hear more student experiences, visit their website.
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