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Planning for Students’ Lives After Eagle Rock: Crafting an individualized path that is values-driven

Planning for Students’ Lives After Eagle Rock: Crafting an individualized path that is values-driven

At Eagle Rock, we believe in empowering young people to make choices in an increasingly ambiguous world. Our faculty embrace this idea, giving students the autonomy and knowledge to take ownership of their futures. Mike Dunn, the Dean of College and Career Counseling helps students plan for their lives after graduation. His journey at Eagle Rock first began as a teaching fellow in 2008, and he recently returned to Eagle Rock a few years ago in this new capacity as Dean.

We believe it is crucial to help support students in gaining awareness of what is possible for their future while equipping them with the skills to learn and grow as human beings.  Mike’s work helps foster student agency and choice, encourages students to embrace change and growth, builds trust and community, addresses post-secondary education inequities, and emphasizes the value of individualized paths.

Fostering Student Agency and Choice

With an ambiguous future on the horizon, Eagle Rock students are empowered through coursework, 1:1 conversation, and programming to envision what they want in their lives. Through his role, Mike can support students in prioritizing and fostering agency and choice-making to help prepare them to act in this space. Eagle Rock faculty recognize each individual who steps foot on our campus and their aspirations and talents. By providing students with the tools and resources to explore their interests, we help them craft a path that aligns with their values and goals. Through reflective processes, Mike and the rest of Eagle Rock faculty encourage change and growth, acknowledging that learning is a lifelong journey.

Embracing change is often difficult and nuanced, and at Eagle Rock, we’ve seen plenty of changes over the last 30 years. Our students are acting within a similar paradigm of change and we know that it is essential that they feel comfortable with ambiguity. Mike encourages students to embrace the unknown while bolstering their skills in areas they care about. Mike believes that learning is not limited to the classroom but happens all the time, especially outside of traditional educational settings. By cultivating a growth mindset, our students are prepared for the ever-changing landscape of their lives.

Building Trust and Community

Trust plays a pivotal role in Eagle Rock's model. Learning requires vulnerability and feedback, and many Eagle Rock students have felt disempowered in traditional school environments. We strive to create a safer and supportive community. By challenging existing power dynamics, we foster collective consciousness and critical thinking. Our students know that the Eagle Rock staff have their backs, allowing them to engage in growth-oriented learning with risk-taking that has a high payoff for their futures. This cultivation of trust also allows them to think about their futures in new and generative ways. 

Addressing Post-Secondary Education Inequities

One of the greatest challenges Mike says he faces in his role is the increasingly inequitable post-secondary learning space. Not even 25 years ago, a student could pay their college tuition by picking up a part-time or summer job. These days, it requires substantial financial resources to attend many 4 year universities.  Mike assists students in understanding the financial risks associated with higher education and encourages them to explore a wide range of paths to further their learning. Eagle Rock provides access to the Graduate Higher Education Fund, which grants each student $14,000 for post-secondary education without restriction, allowing them to invest in their future in a way that suits their individual needs.

Emphasizing Individualized Paths

The myth of a linear and expected path after high school is firmly entrenched in our social lexicon. This myth is hardly the norm, yet it prevails. At Eagle Rock, we believe in the power of agency and choice. Our students are encouraged to embrace their unique journey, understanding that there is no one way to live or learn after graduation. By emphasizing individualized paths, we ensure that our students are able to see a future of possibilities rather than limitations.

Life after Eagle Rock is an exciting time full of possibilities, yet the landscape our alumni face can feel daunting. Mike’s work in coaching students helps to set them up to  pursue their interests, make informed choices, and continue a lifelong journey of learning. 

Please consider supporting our work by making a donation to our Graduate Fund. Every dollar you provide goes directly to fund the lifelong learning path of an Eagle Rock graduate.

Together, we navigate the ambiguity, embrace growth, and create a supportive community that nurtures their individuality.