Let's go deeper.
Syracuse University was the only college that I applied to (and thankfully, they accepted me.) Once I arrived on campus, I loved everything about the school. I had good friends and professors that challenged me.
But, around half way through my first semester, I could still feel like there was something missing. You know that feeling? Everything is going right, yet you're still looking for something more. Most of my relationships were just on the surface level and I wanted to go deeper.
I approached the University with the idea of starting a weekly conversation series called Soulful Sit-Downs. The idea was simple: I would facilitate a discussion each week about "life's big questions" and themes like purpose, vulnerability, and gratitude. Conversations that matter.
After facilitating hundreds of these, I noticed a common theme among all the participants: they left feeling lighter. Even though the problems or difficulties they experienced didn't go away, they were able to develop a new perspective on how to deal with those situations.
Through hearing other students share their stories, they realized that they were not alone.
A new approach to mental health on college campuses.
Counseling centers at colleges and Universities across the country are being inundated with an unprecedented amount of patients. But a pattern has developed at these schools, most students are not clinically depressed. Instead they just need someone to talk to.
Soulful Sit-Downs fills this need. It has become a central part of Syracuse University's mental health program offerings.
Now, other colleges have started implementing the program as well. I recently presented my findings at the New York State College Health Associations annual conference in a presentation titled "Soulful Sit-downs: A Peer-Facilitated Conversation Series Addressing the Intersection Between Resilience and Meaning-Making".
Taking conversations to the next level.
During my senior year at Syracuse, I realized that most of the people coming to Soulful Sit-Downs wanted to go deeper than a once-a-week discussion. I decided to create a weekend retreat that would allow students to explore "the big questions" for two full days.
At Syracuse University's Minnowbrook Conference Center in the Adirondack mountains, the first SOULscape was born.
Hundreds of students now apply to attend the weekend, which the University provides free of charge each semester.