The future of our world is in good hands.
I recently had my two sections of freshmen business students create vision boards, and then had each student take about five minutes and present his or her vision board to the class.
The whole process takes three days of class time, but it is well worth it.
The project serves many purposes from my perspective.
First, and perhaps most importantly, it forces the students to think about their futures, perhaps more than they have ever done before.
Second, it’s a chance for the students to work on their creativity. Finding just the right image or just the right quote to express some future goal takes some time and effort. Once they have all of the raw material, then the next step is to put it all together into a vision board. I give the students the option of creating a vision board the classic way, using poster board and magazine photos, or using PowerPoint. This semester, most students chose PowerPoint; the ones who did not used Prezi, a similar presentation type tool. I think in college that’s an easier approach, since they do not have access to magazines laying around from which they can cut pictures.
My guess is that this use of PowerPoint is very different from what they are used to, since it is so image heavy, with little to few words. It gives them the opportunity to realize that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.
A third purpose is to give the students the opportunity to practice their public speaking. I tell them that since they are presenting on a topic that they know so well (themselves), they can concentrate their efforts on the nuances of the presentation itself. I then try to provide useful feedback on issues such as voice projection, eye contact, enthusiasm level, body language, etc. I also have all the presentations recorded and posted online and then encourage the students to go back and watch themselves. I tell them that while they will likely be the harshest judge of their own presentation, they should look at their presentation as objectively as possible and look for things they thought they did well and things they would like to work on. (I record all of my classes so that students can go back and review a class as needed. I also tell them that watching the class videos will be quite helpful on those nights when they are having trouble falling asleep…).
A fourth goal, and this is sort of a combination of creating the vision board and then presenting it, is impressing upon them the power of publicly sharing their goals. By doing so, the students will first likely spend more time up front thinking seriously about their life goals, and then once they share such goals with others, their commitment level to those goals becomes much stronger.
A fifth goal, and another critical one, is that the project enables the students to get to know each other on a more intimate level than a simple conversation would ever do. I think people are often hesitant to talk about what they would like to get out of life and what’s important to them. But they realize that everyone is in the same boat, and as a result are more than willing to share themselves and their goals with the class. An interesting outcome of this process is that some students may realize they have similar interests and goals, and such revelations could potentially lead to collaborations and friendships.
One example of this taking place this semester is that three different students (all male) indicated that one of their goals in life is to visit every MLB stadium. This is likely not the type of info that would come out in the course of normal conversation, but now that these guys know that there are other students who want to do the same thing, who knows where it could lead.
As to the vision boards and the presentations themselves, those three classes are my favorite days of the semester.
When I hear what some of their goals and dreams are, I come away impressed, humbled, and excited for their futures.
The students are ambitious, many are looking for successful careers in the worlds of finance and accounting; others are hoping to pursue a career in fashion or music; others are looking for a career in sports.
Many of them mention wanting to get married and start a family. They recognize the importance of exercise and eating right, and many of them hope to run a marathon someday. And with all of this in mind, they also note how important it will be to keep their life in balance.
I am also impressed when many of these 18-year-old students openly talk about how important their faith is to them.
Most, if not all, of the students talk about how they want to give back, either through service trips while in college, or later in life.They talk about where they would like to live, and how they would like to be active in their community, their church, coach their kids’ teams, or even start a charitable foundation.
Many of the students talk about wanting to do a study abroad, and to keep travel as an important part of their life as they get older.
They talk about wanting to make a difference, and many point out that they want to work for a company that is socially responsible.
And many of them end their presentation by saying that their ultimate goal is simply to be happy, which is hard to argue with.
After watching all of these vision board presentations, I come away rejuvenated, thinking about how great my job is since I get to interact with students who are so full of energy and excited about their future. I also recognize the opportunity and responsibility I have to be part of helping them achieve their goals in life. That’s part of my vision board.
So thank you to my students for your willingness to share a little bit of yourself with me and your fellow students. I wish all of you the best in achieving your dreams.