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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Explorer Challenge winners seek to advance student well-being

Three professors are using their projects to contribute to Marquette’s Beyond Boundaries Strategic Plan when it comes to student wellness.
Photo by Ricky Labrada
The Explorer Challenge has had a hand in notable Marquette programs and initiatives, such as the creation of the 707 Hub.

As Marquette prepares to install a new strategic plan that will guide the university’s direction for the next seven years, two projects developed by professors are leading the way for maintaining student success during this period.

One of the projects is seeking to provide framework for students to develop career readiness skills, while the second is aiming to reverse the mental health crisis unfolding on college campuses.

Beyond Boundaries is Marquette’s envisioned strategic plan that lays out the groundwork for campus improvement. The ultimate aim of the plan is to focus on a specific set of key priorities until 2031.

One of the five priorities of the strategic plan is student success, with the university promoting academic excellence and an inclusive culture as the main focus. In order to implement all priorities of the plan, Marquette held the 2022-2023 Explorer Challenge 

The Explorer Challenge selects four student or staff-submitted projects as winners and gifts the participants $25,000 for each of their projects to enhance the Beyond Boundaries plan. This year, two of the winning projects emphasized the advancement of student success in Marquette’s strategic plan, one project focusing on career readiness and the other on personal wellness. 

Courtney Hanson, director of Career Services designed an Explorer Challenge program titled: “Measuring Student Development of Professional Formation Competencies.”

Hanson said that some of the goals of her project are to increase student awareness of career readiness skills and provide equitable resource access to all students.

“Career readiness is the foundation for successful entry into the workforce. It provides a framework for students to reflect on learning and experiences, regardless of academic program, and identify key skills they have developed that are most desired by employers,” Hanson said in an email. 

Hanson said The National Association of Colleges and Employers, along with a campus committee, worked to form the Marquette University Professional Formation Competencies as a career preparation guide. She said this rubric designed specifically for Marquette students will be built upon by her Explorer Challenge project to measure career readiness on campus.

Hanson said she is grateful she gets to bring her program to life through the grant money received from the Explorer Challenge.

“I really appreciate that Marquette offers funding to help students, faculty, and staff bring their ideas to life … It was very rewarding to be chosen as a winner because this work will have a direct effect on student development of career readiness skills and translate to success in their future careers,” Hanson said in an email. 

Another winning project from the Explorer Challenge is the “Training Students to Deliver a Student Wellness Program.” This project was developed by professors of psychology Alyson Gerdes and Nakia Gordon, with a focus on future success for students.

Gordon said that the two professors created a six-week program that allows Marquette students to co-lead wellness groups for each of the program’s six topics: relaxation, yoga, gratitude and self-compassion, emotion regulation, goal setting and time management and nutrition and movement. 

“The current project will promote both a sense of belonging to the Marquette community for group members and a transformative experience by equipping them with the necessary skills to maintain personal wellness through life,” Gerdes said in an email.

Along with emphasizing a sense of belonging, Gordon said that the project will provide students tools to take advantage of their successes while managing their challenges. She said this will allow students to learn from their peers and gain a sense of empowerment.

Gordon said that the Explorer Challenge gave her and Gerdes an opportunity to work with other campus organizations to deliver student wellness programming easily, accessibly and visibly.

While Hanson’s career readiness program and Gerdes and Gordon’s wellness program are seeking to advance the Beyond Boundaries strategic plan with different approaches, both projects have a focus on improving the lives of students and setting them up for success for years to come. 

“To ‘Be the Difference’ you need to know who you are and where you can make the greatest impact in the world,” Hanson said in an email. “Having the opportunity to intentionally reflect on your work, the skills you have developed, and how you can use those skills in the future prepares students to leave Marquette with clarity about what they have to offer the world and be the difference.” 

This story was written by Mia Throw. She can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Mia Thurow
Mia Thurow is a first-year student from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin double-majoring in Journalism and Spanish with a minor in Digital Media. She is a Marquette Wire News Reporter for the 2023-2024 school year. In her free time, Mia enjoys cheering on all her favorite sports teams, exploring downtown Milwaukee with friends, and spending time hiking in nature. Mia is excited to meet new people during her time at the Wire and raise awareness of important news stories in the local community.

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