The Art of Building Community at Mansfield Hall

On Tuesdays at Mansfield Hall we gather as a community.

Wait, read that last sentence again, because it is a big deal!

On Tuesdays at Mansfield Hall we gather as a community.

Community is the ground from which all our work at Mansfield Hall grows. It is the substrate of our relationships, it is the opportunity for fun, it is the landing place from which our students can take risks and venture into their campus communities and Burlington community. It is the landscape for learning and the charm for change.

At community meeting on Tuesdays, we share successes from the week and offer “props” to others for their successes or supportive contributions to the community. It is a great time to connect with each other. It is also a time when students can share goals they have made or completed, or goals they are working on and want supported by the community.

For many of our students, this opportunity to reflect on what they want, where they are ready to make changes in their lives, and turn this into actionable goals is a new process.

They aren’t sure at first what change they want or how to get there and they aren’t used to taking this level of ownership in their lives.

It is a process that asks the student to take a risk in expecting more of themselves and asks their team (Director of Student Life, Academic Director, Student Life Coordinators, and parents) for a great deal of patience and trust in the student’s capacity to act from their own inherent capacity for growth.

Last week in community meeting one student shared his goal of getting a B+ in a particular class, and his secondary goal of not beating himself up if he isn’t able to meet this goal. Another student shared a goal of spending more time in the art studio and asking if other students would support her by going with her sometimes.  Students have crafted goals around keeping up with laundry, building new friendships, improving people’s lives through their community service, managing their medication more independently, and many more. For some students it takes a whole semester before they can really embrace this process, for others they come more quickly to it. Wherever students are in the process we are with them, celebrating the small steps, offering a helping hand with a back step, redirecting the mis-steps, and keeping our eyes and ears open for students signs of readiness for making change in their lives.