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Development Journey
James Gilbert
Georgia Southern University

The journey through the college years is full of challenges and rewards. In many ways it

can be seen as a brave frontier. And for many students it can be an outer worldly experience. It is

a journey filled with new ideas, events, and relationships. All of these either directly or indirectly

contribute to the development of the college student. Chickering noted that this development of

the college student involves both differentiation and integration as students faces the complexity

of other people, ideas, and values and struggle to reconcile those with their own belief, values

and ideas (Pascarella, 2005). My experience is not an exception. There are several theories that

outline this developmental journey. However, for this writing, I will examine the seven vectors of

development described by Arthur Chickering and Linda Reisser (Pascarella, 2005) and use their

insights to identify stages of my college development in light of their findings.

The first vector in Chickerings model is achieving competence and includes areas of

intellect, physical skills, and interpersonal relations in which intellectual growth involves

knowledge acquisition, cultural sophistication and development of cognitive skills (Pascarella,

2005). This proved both true and challenging in my college journey, particularly in my freshman

year. I have always had a love of learning and school was not challenging for me in my high

school years. However, the first year of college was a stretch. I had never been exposed to so

much new information in such a short amount of time. My professors were as diverse as my

subjects and there were barrier of communication and expectations that had to be overcome.

Some had foreign accents that I had difficulty understanding and there were expectations that it

was my responsibility to obtain level of study and insight outside of the classroom. The bulk of

the learning was my responsibility. My freshman year left with an overwhelming feeling of

incompetence. I was forced to grow intellectually by forging new study habits and develop the

interpersonal skill necessary to seek help from faculty as well as other student through study

groups and other support systems.

The second vector, managing emotions, is the student learning to overcome emotions that

disrupt the educational process and these can range from fear, anger, and anxiety to dysfunctional

romantic or sexual attractions (Pascarella, 2005). I was pressed across a broad spectrum of

emotions. I had fear and anxiety over whether I would be able to meet the academic challenges. I

was dealing with the anxiety of being a small town kid, adjusting to live and the big city and not

wanting to disappoint those who supported me. The compound the issue, I made the mistake of

leaving for college with an ongoing high school relationship. The long-distance relationship

complicated things and added more responsibility to an already seemingly overloaded life.

Eventually, both grades and the relationship suffered and the relationship was brought to a

painful ending. Though the process was painful, it did lead to both the fresh start and fresh focus

that I needed to be successful. It removed some of the expectations and sharpened by focus.
Vector three is moving through autonomy toward interdependence and it represent the

development of balance and interplay between autonomy and interdependence and intimacy

(Pascarella, 2005). This involves a move from dependence upon the approval and reassurance of

others to a place of self-sufficiency in which one is able to organize their own affairs and solve

problems while developing relationship that are based on equality and reciprocity (Pascarell,

2005). This process was most evident in my sophomore year of college. By this time I had a

better understanding of my strengths and weakness and understood what I did well and what I

did not do well. In the process, I was able develop relationship in which I could both give and

receive value.
The fourth vector, known as developing mature interpersonal relationships, includes the

process by which the interaction with peers provide valuable learning experiences and help shape

a sense of self as the student trough maturing interpersonal relationships develop an open

awareness of different ideas and backgrounds of others (Pascarella, 2005). I grew more in this

area in end of my sophomore year and throughout my junior year of college. Previously I was

somewhat intimidated by my peers. Even though, I was attending a historical black college, I

was a first generation college student and many of my peers came from a rich heritage of

academic achievement and career success. Mine was a background of poverty, while theirs was

of middle and upper class experience. I soon grew to a place of confidence where I understood

that I could learn from them and also that I brought a valuable perspective to the college

experience and they could likewise learn a great deal from me.
The fifth, establishing identity, is consider pivotal in that it shaped by development in the

previous vectors and also influences the subsequent vectors (Pascarella, 2005). It involves

concepts of physical characteristic as well as self-conceptions relating to gender and sexual

orientation as well as a sense of self shaped by a culmination of historical events, social and

cultural conditions, and family and ethnic heritage (Pascarella, 2005). I guess I always had a

sense of identity which was shaped by my family and upbringing, but the greatest impact upon

my identity was my faith. I think the college experience helped to bring a clearer focus in terms

of what I valued and what I believed. Interacting with other people of different culture and

backgrounds gave me a greater appreciation and respect for others, but also solidified my

confidence in my own identity because it gave me a chance to gain comparative value.

Vector six is developing purpose. According to Chickering, development in this vector

occurs when individuals answer the questions, Who am I and who am I going to be and where

and I and where am I going? and requires intentionality in developing plans that integrate

vocational goals, interpersonal inspirations and family (Pascarella, 2005, p. 22). For me this

stage of development is most influence by my faith. My experiences in college served as tools to

challenge and tune my awareness of my purpose. However, my understanding of this was not

found within myself, but on the contrary my experiences forced me to look beyond myself to

someone greater than myself. My college experiences clearly defined by limitations and

broadened my horizons to a point where I was forced to draw from something greater than

myself and forced me to evaluate what and why I believed. The more I learned about the world

from a philosophical, historical, sociological, and scientific perspective, the more I understood

that my purpose must be drawn from something larger and more complex than myself because

the world was far more complex and beyond me and any meaningful sense of purpose must be

drawn from a place and being far greater than me.

This brings us to the final vector, developing integrity. Growth in this vector

encompassing clarifying and rebalancing of personal values and beliefs (Pascarella, 2005). This

process involves reviewing values and retaining, personalizing, and internalizing those that are

consistent with emerging identity and finding identity that is internally consistent and manifest

themselves in socially responsible behavior (Pascarella, 2005, p. 23). My college experience has

taught me to evaluate ideas by intellectually evaluating competing arguments and deciding based

upon supported evidence. In other words, prove everything and embrace what is good and true.
In conclusion, the college journey can be a difficult process of development. However,

with a deeply assessed sense of self and a willingness to honestly and openly interact with both

the treasures of knowledge and people within the campus environment, one can reach a place of

growth and development that carries beyond the college years.