Georgetown University will launch “Hoya Connected” this spring, a new course that promotes emotional well-being and supports first-year, sophomore and transfer students as they adjust to college life.
The one-credit, pass/fail course is the first step in Georgetown’s implementation of The Connection Project, an initiative the University of Virginia developed to help students feel supported and connected on campus. It will meet weekly in small groups of six to 10 students and foster discussions about trust, identity and relationships through games, getting-to-know-you activities and more serious discussions. Two trained upper-class co-facilitators will lead the course.
Andrea Bonior, a teaching professor who directs Georgetown’s implementation of The Connection Project, currently teaches “Group Process and Facilitation,” the course upper-class facilitators are required to take to eventually lead the “Hoya Connected” course.
The facilitators undergo a training process led by Bonior, participating in a condensed course simulation and learning about the science behind what makes the techniques and curriculum effective.
Bonior hopes the new course “Hoya Connected” is valuable in solidifying a feeling of belonging, which is crucial to well-being.
“The whole point of the curriculum is to gain a sense of belongingness, a sense of interconnectedness to get to know other people on campus to feel more engaged on campus,” Bonior told The Hoya. “That sense of belongingness is really valuable because it leads to other things that lead to a higher sense of well-being, maybe higher academic achievement, which leads to diminished loneliness.”
Bonior said the course could be particularly beneficial for students from underrepresented backgrounds or students working to get over social anxiety — but that any student would benefit from participation in the course.
“It’s also just quite frankly, really great for students who are looking for a one-credit class, where they’re going to have a little bit of fun,” Bonior said. “They’re not going to be adding any real stress to the workload that they’re looking just to go through some growth, they’re looking to be intentional in their growth, or looking to have some friendly new faces of people that actually want to kind of interact and talk about stuff.”
Addison Horowicz (CAS ’26), a student currently training to become a facilitator, said the course’s mission personally resonated with her because it reflected her values.
“The mission of it all, which is just getting people to feel more connected in their community and feel a little bit less isolated in their experiences, really appealed to kind of exactly what I like to be involved in university,” Horowicz said.
Horowicz added that the training program revealed that students shared many similar aspects of the Georgetown experience across different grade levels.
“Our group was unique in the fact that it spanned a ton of grades,” Horowicz said. “But the things that the seniors were struggling with, and felt a little bit alone in and opened up about, were the same things that I, as a sophomore, have been experiencing.”
Horowicz said that she hopes to replicate the bonds made in training with the students in the course she will be leading in the spring.
“I think what I’m looking the most forward to is feeling that connection that was sponsored in the group of facilitators with a group of people that I’m probably passing on campus right now and have no idea who they are,” Horowicz said.
Heather Doherty (CAS ’24), another facilitator-in-training, said she hopes to help students settle into campus life, especially since her first year of college was online due to the pandemic, which made making friends and finding community more difficult.
“I would love to help other kids that are going through that make friends faster and find their community on campus,” Doherty said.
“Not only do you make new friends, but you also learn a lot of communication skills and listening skills, and just ways to be a good person to communicate with. So I think anyone would benefit from it,” Doherty added.
The course has already brought students together through its facilitator training program, according to Doherty.
“I’ve also just experienced such a fun time in my class this semester, and I’ve made so many friends that I really was not expecting to get out of a psychology elective course. But we’ve all become really close,” Doherty said. “And so seeing that connection that I’ve made, I’d love to help other people make it as well.”