College Support Program: Getting Ready for the Fall at Mansfield Hall

Walking home from dinner last week, after enjoying a beautiful evening on Church St., in downtown Burlington, I overheard someone say that it was the first night that the sun went down before 8pm, and yesterday I saw my first yellow leaf of the season.  No doubt about it: summer is slowly coming to a close, and fall is making its first appearances in Northern Vermont.  While we will certainly miss the halcyon days of summer, fall brings with it a new kind of excitement, and Burlington is just beginning to buzz in anticipation of the undergraduate invasion that marks opening days at the local colleges.

Laub_TreppenThe box stores in town (and probably in your town, too) are well-stocked for the college rush – laundry hampers, under-bed-bins, laptop cases, phone chargers, fans and lamps are all piled up in order to outfit new apartments and bedrooms.  Here at Mansfield Hall, a college support program for students with disabilities, we’ve also spent the summer preparing for the fall – we’ve got a new commercial kitchen and cafe for culinary instruction and community meals, an entirely new building, and a well-trained staff of Student Life Coordinators, Academic Coaches, and Mansfield Fellows ready to greet and support our returning and incoming students.

With so much anticipation and expectation it’s hard to imagine that anything will get in the way of student success.  As students arrive at Mansfield Hall they will all engage in a student-centered goal-setting process in order to create a roadmap for their ongoing journey towards independence.  Setting goals organized around academic success, community service involvement, building pro-social connections, increasing self-advocacy, and demonstrating self-care and self-management will help students become increasingly active participants in their own life story, and will help them move forward in their academic and inter- and intra-personal development.

But what happens when there’s a speedbump, a roadblock, a detour?  What happens when the best laid plans of mice and men go astray?  How do we overcome flagging motivation, the fear of the unknown, or a conflict born of the delicate interplay of independence and responsibility?

At Mansfield Hall we’ve formally adopted and implemented the specific and well-researched approach to navigating these opportunities for growth known as Collaborative Problem Solving, or CPS.*  The key tenets of CPS are empathy through active and reflective listening, actual problem definition (hint: the actual problem usually isn’t the presenting issue!), and an invitation to find a collaborative solution.  Put simply, the CPS approach allows our staff to partner with students in order to face well-defined problems shoulder-to-shoulder, and solve them together in a way which builds self-esteem and the capacity for independence.  Through this approach we’re able to better maintain the important healthy relationships which are central to a pro-social growth process, while also face and overcome the predictable, and unforeseen, roadblocks that inevitably pop up on our student’s journey toward independence.

If you’d like to learn more about CPS at Mansfield Hall, or have any questions about how we can help you or a college-capable young adult in your life, please contact Grant Liebersberger at [email protected]g.

*CPS refers to both Collaborative Problem Solving and Collaborative & Proactive Solutions.  Initially developed by Dr. Ross Greene, Collaborative Problem Solving remains the intellectual property of Mass. General Hospital and it’s organization Think:Kids, under the current direction of Dr. Stuart Ablon.  Now independent of the organization, Dr. Greene refers to his work as Collaborative & Proactive Solutions.  We have simply referred to the more common name, although the fundamentals of both approaches remain essentially identical.