Foundations Workshops Teach Essential Life-Skills

Foundations workshops feature such topics as leadership, career development, financial wellness, community involvement, healthy relationships and self-care, and physical health and nutrition.

Reverand Brian Konkol presents a Foundations session
Reverend Brian E. Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel, presents a session on community engagement for Foundations.

Preparing students for life beyond the classroom is the main objective of Foundations, a student development series launched last fall. A campus-wide expansion of the athletic department’s S-Project life skills development program for student-athletes, Foundations workshops feature such topics as leadership, career development, financial wellness, community involvement, healthy relationships and self-care, and physical health and nutrition. “We focus on what students need to know to have a successful life, with each workshop emphasizing interaction and takeaways,” says Tracy Tillapaugh G’15, internship placement coordinator at Falk College.

“We focus on what students need to know to have a successful life, with each workshop emphasizing interaction and takeaways.”

—Tracy Tillapaugh G’15

Tillapaugh was instrumental in brainstorming and organizing the series with colleagues Mark Trumbo, coordinator of student-athlete engagement, and Derek Brainard, former financial literacy coordinator. The inaugural series attracted as many as 90 students per session, with 45 students attending all six sessions, far surpassing the organizers’ expectations. “We were a bit surprised—but very pleased—by the number of students who came to the workshops,” Tillapaugh says. Undergraduates who attend all sessions and submit an essay on what they learned in two of the sessions are eligible to receive a $1,000 scholarship. Winners in the fall 2017 semester were College of Arts and Sciences students Julianne Doherty ’20, Noah Goldmann ’21, and Gabriel Lizer ’21, School of Information Studies student Eldon Tsoi ’21, and Falk College student Zadia Wallace ’19.

Tillapaugh’s career development session had a significant impact on Lizer, a first-year student who enrolled as undecided on a major. “I was interested in every field—from politics to music industry—and overwhelmed with options,” he says. As a result of the workshop, Lizer made an appointment with Career Services to more clearly focus his educational choices. The workshop on financial literacy motivated him to learn how to budget his money, and to enhance his cash flow by applying for work-study positions on campus. “I now have three jobs on campus and plan to apply to be a financial advisor sophomore year, so I can transfer these necessary life skills to other students,” he says.

Derek Brainard presents a financial literacy session
Derek Brainard, former financial literacy coordinator, presents Money 101 for the Foundation series.

Goldmann was inspired to find a way to help others after attending the Foundations workshop by Syeisha Byrd G’12, director of community engagement at Hendricks Chapel. After hearing her message that one person can make a difference, he signed up for the chapel’s Young Scholars program, and tutors a fourth-grade student in math at the Central Village Boys & Girls Club. “My student’s face lights up every time he sees me and it’s the best feeling in the world,” Gold­mann says. “I eventually want to work with kids teaching math, because that’s what I love to learn.”

To make sure the sessions are exciting, informative, and keeping the level of interest high, new topics and speakers will be added each semester. Spring 2018 workshops featured presentations on information literacy with iSchool professor Jeffrey Rubin ’95, G’98, president and CEO, SIDEARM Sports; career development with Erin Miller ’16, innovation and immersion recruiter for the iSchool and cofounder of Out There Productions; community engagement with the Reverend Brian E. Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel; and “A Comedic Guide to Money” with financial educator, comedic speaker, and author Colin Ryan.

Trumbo presented his workshop on leadership, stressing the importance of having a good foundation of core values. He is pleased to see the program he started for student-athletes offered to all SU students, and appreciates the support the series has received from campus faculty and staff. “I always knew that students need to learn life skills early,” he says. “I want them to start a budget now, take a leadership position now. The hours spent at Foundations workshops could impact a student’s life for the next 40 years.”

Paula Meseroll

This story was published on . It also appeared as “​Learning Life-Skill Essentials” in the Spring 2018 issue of Syracuse University Magazine.


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