“Knowledge and deep understanding come through a process of constructing knowledge through assessment of experience. Thought and action cannot be separated. “We cannot think first and act afterwards. From the moment of birth we are immersed in action and can only fitfully guide it by taking thought.” (Whitehead, 1994 in Eyler, 2002).
The Gap Experience is a semester-long, experiential based service-learning program designed for incoming first-year students. The Gap Experience seeks to deepen the experience of communio by promoting transformative student learning; addressing real community needs; building relationships of mutuality; and working for the common good. Through a unique combination of outdoor adventure challenge, demanding study and travel abroad, students are emboldened to confront complex social-justice issues and engage in real-world solutions to these problems.
2019 Gap Summary:
Gap has wrapped up its sixth year! As an experiential based education program, we are proud to offer our students a program that is holistic by design, fostering their intellectual, spiritual and social development with an emphasis on leadership development alongside rigorous academic coursework. In the early summer, college leadership determined the need to reallocate resources in support of emerging priorities, making this the final year of the Gap Experience. While we are saddened by this outcome, we are thrilled to have completed the closing year on a high.
The final cohort consisted of 10 students, each of whom were selected from a competitive applicant pool. Admitted students’ average GPA was a 3.68 and average ACT score was a 25.8. We had two out-of-state students, both from Illinois, as well as eight individuals from Wisconsin. Our 2019 Gap students’ interests are wide. They entered college interested in anything from photography to sociology. Several hoped to complete medical school while others were undeclared or, as we like to say, multi-interested. This year proved, yet again, that the Gap Experience is suited for students interested in a variety of disciplines and can offer guidance for those unsure.
This year Gap saw the onboarding of a new Assistant Director, Amber Latimer as well as a new but familiar face, Peyton Going as the Field Assistant. Peyton was part of the inaugural Gap Experience Program in 2014 and after graduation went on to complete an internship with our wilderness course partner, Voyageur Outward Bound School in Ely, Minnesota. A slight modification to the program this year meant the field assistant accompanied the group for all travel portions up until departure for Guatemala. During this time in the field, Peyton witnessed first hand how the program has shifted, grown, and improved over the years. As the new decade commenced, the creator and Director of the program, Laura Fredrickson bid farewell to the College in pursuit of new opportunities on our nation’s west coast. Amber has since assumed the role of Interim Director and will oversee the decommissioning of the program. We wish Laura all the best as she transitions into this new period of her personal and professional life, and we thank her for her tremendous contributions to the Gap Experience over the years.
Since returning to campus, Gap students have had several touchpoints to aid in their transition before the start of the spring semester. This included a meeting with staff and student workers of the College’s TRIPS and Navigate programs, as well as representatives from the Leadership, Student Engagement and First-Year Experience Office and Residential Education and Housing. Students were also required to enroll in a re-entry course that is designed to weave meaning into their experience and provide a space for the cohort to make the transition to life as “typical” students together. Throughout the spring the cohort will meet regularly one-on-one with the Interim Director to continue the mentorship as it pertains to the personal, intellectual and spiritual development of each individual.
With 77 Gap student alumni, we have witnessed positive educational and learning outcomes as a result of this program being offered. While we are deeply saddened that the Gap Experience will not continue, we are appreciative of the multitude of opportunities students have had over the years. We find peace in knowing that each one of the 77 are a drop in the flood of goodness our world needs, and this upcoming spring we will see our third cohort of students graduate with 11 individuals better prepared to tackle today’s complex social and environmental issues.
“I now know the benefits of leaning into discomfort. I also believe that this journey has helped me to find another piece of my voice. I have more confidence in sharing my thoughts and feelings. I cannot imagine who I would be today if I had not done The Gap.”2019 Gap Student
Gap’s Assessment Results:
In 2018, Gap embarked on a mission of data collection. We wanted to be able to gather data that could be used to compare against the wider SNC student population. Here are some of the highlights that our data demonstrated.
- Gap students indicated a higher commitment to ‘the development of next generation and improving the community’ over the greater SNC population and study abroad students.
- Gap students reported having more discussions about major social issues with students whose values and beliefs were different from their own as compared to the greater SNC population and study abroad students.
- Gap students felt more confident taking initiative and leading a team to accomplish a goal in comparison to the greater SNC population and the study abroad students.
- Gap students reported seeking out service opportunities 13.6% more than the greater SNC population and 6.1% more than study abroad students.
- Gap students believe that the program shaped their college experience by increasing their confidence, helping them gain a more worldly perspective, assisting them in stepping out of their comfort zone, contributing to feeling a greater sense of community and expanding their leadership skills.
“Now that I’ve gone through it [The Gap Experience], I realize that how I was thinking was wrong and unfair to myself and others. I’ve seen the struggles of others and what issues there are in the world that contribute to them. I am not only thinking about myself anymore. I am not as negative or caught up in my own self as much. I’m not lost without direction anymore.”2019 Gap Student
2019 Recap Video
Featured Learning: 2019 Digital Stories
View all outstanding 2019 digital stories by visiting the SNC Digital Commons
Read Student Reflections:
These are links to the personal reflections from the 2019 cohort on their time as Gap students. This project was part of the reflection course taught by Amber Latimer, Interim Director of the Gap Experience. Each link will bring you to a student’s own domain where you will find a brief essay that describes their personal transformation.
“Through my time in the Gap Program I feel I could not have had a more successful semester to start college.”2019 Gap student