by Heather Medley
Many will move back to Lubbock, back into the Residence Halls, back into being in charge of themselves very soon. Arthur Chickering's Seven Vectors theorize the "tasks" that students must go through while developing their identity. The third of those vectors expects students learn to operate on their own, and take responsibility for themselves. Moving to college certainly aids in achieving those goals. In higher education, we look for emotional and instrumental independence as signs of maturing into adulthood.
As early as two children start differentiating themselves from others and take greater control over their lives. As they start to sound like the sea gulls in Finding Nemo, chirping, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” children start to choose to operate on their own.
For many college students the realization of just how independent they have become during the first year of college is obvious, like the neon signs on the strip in Las Vegas when they move home for the summer. Nothing feels the same. Nothing "fits". The same rules don't apply. They can't. Students come home different. Changed. More Independent.
It is important for students to find emotional and instrumental independence.
Growing and becoming your own person is scary and for many quite a daunting task. The ability of a student to willingly risk relationships of those who are close to them in exchange for pursuing their own individual interests or convictions is emotional independence. Some scholars leave families who do not necessarily support their student’s college decision. Many students leave their hometowns, all of their friends, and chase their dreams to Raiderland. That can be terrifying.
While leaving one support network, Terry scholars fall right into a new one in Lubbock. Tech Terry’s have a phenomenal amount of non-parental adults who support them. From the President’s Office to Student Housing and from the Scholarship Office to the Dean of Students, everyone at Texas Tech supports Terry Scholars. Scholars encourage other scholars too.
It's true: Adolescents really do want to jump off a bridge just because their friends are doing it. However, to be emotionally independent is to be free of pressing needs for reassurance and approval from others. The beautiful part of the pressure is that pressure from peers has the ability to work in both directions. As a Terry Scholar, students are called, “scholars” from day one and treated like they’re special, expected to behave and preform as such. All of which helps move students to find their emotional and instrumental independence.
The ability to cope with problems without seeking help; being self-directed is instrumental independence. Interdependence involves recognizing and accepting your interconnectedness with others. From the day a scholar receives “the letter” they are ushered into a group, a Terry Family, full of other scholars who are excited to welcome them and help them. They are interconnected even as strangers from that day.
Moving through this vector through autonomy toward interdependence, students can manage the tensions between the need for independence and the need for acceptance, along with respecting the uniqueness and independence of others. The successful achievement of this vector involves learning how to be emotionally independent. This includes becoming free from the consistent need for comfort, affirmation, and approval from others. Individuals also see growth in problem solving abilities, initiative, and self-direction. They begin to understand that they are part of a whole. They are autonomous, but interdependent on others in society.
When this happens, year after year, as scholars are invited into the group, it’s a beautiful thing.