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Developmental Journey Ryan Keesee Georgia Southern University

In Perry’s Scheme of Intellectual and Ethical Development, he concludes:


Perhaps the best model for growth is neither the straight line nor the circle, but a helix, perhaps with an expanding radius to show that when we face the ‘same’ old issues we do so from a different and broader perspective. Perry’s work (as cited in Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005, p. 36) I did not, however chose to write about Perry’s theory, instead I felt as though it complimented Chickering’s Seven Vectors of Student Development being that this model is expressed by a spiral or by steps. I believe this model reflects my undergraduate experience the best because it is not set in a linear fashion and movement along the seven vectors occur in a spontaneous fashion. Movement through the vectors can happen together or separately with various one’s influencing and affecting the development of another. Negative movement or retracing steps can also occur. I will highlight each vector and present experiences in which I grew within the respective vector concluding with a review of my overall developmental journey. Competence in intellectual areas, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal relations with both individuals and groups are all a part of the first vector, achieving competence. (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005) Core classes such as English, sociology, and psychology increased my understanding of social issues and fostered the development of my own personal theories. Independence from my family allowed me to grow as an adult. I made decision on my own accord for better or for worse. My interpersonal relationships grew as I continued to meet new people and become involved in various ways. My experience as an orientation leader played a major role in developing my relationships amongst peers and introduced me to cultural sensitivity. Discussions held with my orientation team as well as with my group of friends built upon my empathy for others. Referring back to the helix or spiral stair model, I encountered experiences that built upon my competence multiple times throughout my undergraduate career. Each time I added to my prior knowledge and approached the situation with new perspective.



The management of emotions is the second vector which occurs when students learn to control impulses and to develop appropriate responses for handling intense, potentially disruptive, emotions (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). I credit my growth in this vector to my sophomore year. I lived a less disciplined lifestyle and unfortunately my grades were victim to my impulsive behavior. I lost my GPA and Hope Scholarship and turned angry, destructive, and depressed. Fortunately my roommate one night looked at me and said, “quite complaining and do something about it.” It was simple but effective advice that was blatant enough for me to react positively. It is noted in the text that not all emotions are negative, feelings such as wonder, sympathy, relief, caring, and optimism also occur in this vector. I hold this to be true because by the end of my undergrad I had grown in other vectors. This allowed me to be more emotionally sound and enabled me to embrace more positive feelings. My development in the third vector, moving through autonomy toward interdependence, most effectively occurred during an opportunity I had to participate in a mentor program with the Dean of students Dr. Georj Lewis. Pascarella & Terenzini (2005) indicate that development in this vector involves increased emotional freedom from the need for reassurance and the approval of others as well as greater instrumental independence. I spoke with Dr. Lewis about having low self-esteem due to being a slow learner. He advised me to not worry about my pace so long as I was learning. If I am trying to get from point A to point B, even if I get there slower, I still find the end. Taking my time just might allow me to learn more and achieve more than those who rush to the end. From that point I focused more on my personal performance while also understanding my potential to influence others. The summer following my junior year I traveled to Spain for study abroad and this is where I probably grew the greatest in the fourth vector, developing mature interpersonal relationships. This vector involves the increasing awareness of and openness to differences in ideas, people, backgrounds, and values (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Granted prior to this trip I had multiple experiences in

sensitivity training and ethical awareness through my experiences working as an orientation leader and


student tour guide. However, it was the complete emersion into a different culture supplied by my study abroad experience that really defines the growth experienced in this vector. I learned an immense amount through the daily conversations with my host family about the differences and similarities of our two cultures. There were many instances we discussed our values and for the most part we shared many of the same perceptions. There were awkward moments and times I was extremely uncomfortable, but this all built upon my respect for people and my level of maturity in interpersonal relationships. In defining the fifth vector, establishing identity, Pascarella & Terenzini (2005) offer a fantastic quote from Chickering and Reisser, “A solid sense of self emerges, and it becomes more apparent that there is an I who coordinates the facets of personality, who owns the house of self and is comfortable in all of its rooms.” Growth in this vector is influenced my previous ones and fosters growth in vectors that follow. I believe this to be very true all though I did not fully realize and establish my identity until after graduation. I believe my experiences and growth in the previous vectors came full circle during my internship experience that following summer. My internship took place in Kentucky, far away from home and in a new environment. Stepping into a supervisory role amongst other professionals really influenced me to establish and fully understand my values, beliefs, and goals. I lived alone for the duration of the internship so there was a great amount of time dedicated to thought in which I came to fully understand my identity. Development along the sixth vector, developing purpose, occurs as an individual answers not only the question “Who am I?” but also “Who am I going to be?” and not just “Where am I?” but “Where am I going?” (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). I had multiple experiences in leadership development throughout my undergrad that assessed my goals and passions that encouraged my

consideration of these types of questions. My personal development in this vector was sparked by the onset of grad school. In order to be successful I knew I had to understand what I wanted to accomplish and have an end goal in mind. My development in this vector has initiated my pursuit of the seventh and final vector, developing integrity. According to Pascarella and Terenzini (2005), developing integrity involves clarification and


rebalancing of personal values and beliefs. I have come to recognize education as a passion and career I wish to have an impact on. With this I have begun taking the necessary steps to establish disciplinary actions that comply with my values and beliefs to ensure my development in this area. As I grow as a Higher Education professional, it becomes more important that I maintain consistency and adapt socially responsible behavior. I feel it is completely appropriate for this to be the seventh vector. John Wooden once said, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” The seventh vector is established by the development in the prior vectors and probably the most likely for backward movement to occur. In conclusion, I have discussed Chickering’s Seven Vectors of Student Development and related them to my developmental journey through college. The college experience fosters a transitional period for students that is molded through different environments and experiences. Chickering’s vectors can be seen throughout the undergraduate career with the conclusion of college being met with the seventh vector. I believe this model is healthy in the fact that it recognizes the reoccurrence of experiences and the manner in which we approach them. As many educators and theorists argue, I do not believe knowledge is final. Instead it is constantly revisited and often time’s conceptual change leads to new personal theories. In closing, I believe as I grow as a professional I will revisit each of these vectors and my knowledge will continue to expand such as a helix with an expanding radius.

References Pascarella, E.T. & Terenzini, P.T. (2005) How college affects students: Vol. 2 a third decade of research (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.