Saint Vincent College is hosting the Inspire Change workshop series which is sponsored by the Title IX office and the athletic department. The first presentation took place on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Carey Performing Arts Center. The prerogative is to teach students about social pressures and the stresses of conformity and perceived perfection.
The two featured speakers were Dr. Jayna Bonfini, MA, MS, and Dr. Elizabeth Ventura, PH.D.
Ventura recently visited Saint Vincent College last spring as a part of the LEARN Speakers series, and was invited to return for the Inspire Change Workshop to speak about her experience as a licensed counselor.
Eileen K. Flinn, Esq., assistant general counsel and coordinator for the Title IX office, spoke about the reasons for the presentation.
“The purpose of the event is to provide students with additional tools that relate to making good choices in their lives,” Flinn said. “Educating students about Title IX is important. A lot of people think of it as sexual assault and harassment, but also equally important is providing opportunities for them to learn how to balance their lives with all the pressures and adjustments that they’re facing.”
Flinn also elaborated on her own experiences working in the Title IX office.
“I was appointed Title IX coordinator about a year ago in August 2016. Many times, a report comes to my office as a result of bad or not so smart choices, with students not knowing quite how to handle social conflicts. They feel they have to do this, they have to do that, they have to be the best boyfriend, or girlfriend or friend. So, the inclination is to say yes to everything and put themselves in a position where they’re not sure how to react when it comes crumbling down. But there’s also additional stress because they’re facing finals or midterms for the first time. They’re now in a much bigger environment than they’re used to, so presenting programming and activities that don’t solely focus on sexual misconduct and bystander intervention, but also on how they can recognize what their triggers are and how they can handle them is important and it leads to good and better choices. This is the first step in an opportunity for students to learn more about this,” Flinn said.
According to Flinn, in addition to aiding students, the event is one of a number of collaborations between the Title IX office and the athletic department meant to ensure compliance with the NCAA’s new policy for member schools to provide educational opportunities for students.
“In looking at what the law required schools to do and at a holistic approach, looking at what other colleges and universities were doing across the country, looking at what we were doing already in different areas at Saint Vincent, the wellness center, campus ministry through healthy relationships, the theology of the body, all those things come together to help students make good choices in their lives,” Flinn said.
Flinn said that she hopes students find value in the program.
“We hope that students find it worthwhile and we’ll continue to offer the programming where we think we will give the most help and benefit to students,” Flinn said.
Bonfini and Ventura regularly alternated during the presentation, each sharing their own experiences and giving respective advice to the present students, with the help of a slide show to aid the speakers.
Questions were asked to the crowd of attending students, such as, “How do you describe yourself?” and, “How much of your description has to do with what you do and not who you are?” to begin their speech. Over the course of the hour-long event, clips were shown from the films “Election” and “Good Will Hunting” to facilitate the discussion.
The two speakers also talked about having to adjust one’s identity upon entering college, an idea that will resonate with many freshmen. The presentation then discussed four myths about perfection and the differing reality.
Ventura related her own experiences wrestling with perceived perfection by telling of her past ambitions with playing basketball.
“It defined every part of me,” Ventura said. “My friends were athletes. I roomed with an athlete. I missed a lot, but I didn’t care. I had something different.”
However, eventually, she said, she wanted out, but her fear of quitting kept her from doing so. The two presenters left the audience with a contemplation of the definition of excellence compared to the definition of perfection.
Both speakers also gave their own thoughts on their visit, its purpose and what they hoped to leave behind.
“It was about bringing awareness on a common theme that happens in college-age students,” said Ventura. “This is the population we love to work with the most because college-age students are at the point in their lives where they’re figuring out who they are, and I think this is the opportunity to have the most impact for change. Just by nature of being in college, you want more for yourself and you do what’s right or expected, and so people who usually have those characteristics tend to be more perfectionistic.”
“It was also educating about the differences between healthy striving and the suppressive sense that you have to be perfect in order to be successful or loved or worthy,” said Bonfini. “A lot of students get caught up in a cycle of achievement where there’s not much time for reflection, when they have so much going on. What I hope to leave behind is for people to question what they’re doing and think, ‘Can I just aim for excellence and be a healthy striver instead of someone who needs to be perfect?’ It’s also important to help each other. When you’re not living congruent, that’s where the depression and the anxiety can come into play.”
Sue Hozak, head volleyball coach, associate athletic
director and collaborator in the athletic department, also spoke positively about the past and future presentations.
“Education, hopefully, is an ongoing experience throughout a person’s life,” Hozak said. “Not all educational experiences occur in a classroom setting, and I believe the speaker series is an example of that.”