How do I register? What’s the laundry situation? How can I grow my spiritual identity? Senior professional writing major Elise Boutell set out to find answers to each of these commonly asked questions and more for incoming students.
At the start of the 2023-2024 school year, Taylor University published “Guidebook for Your First Semester: How to Thrive Academically & Spiritually at Taylor University,” a collection of devotionals and helpful tips.
The idea for this guidebook began in CAC 220, Essentials of Written Communication, taught by Professor Linda Taylor, assistant professor of professional writing. The final project required students to produce a proposal to address a need around campus. Boutell presented her proposal for a “how-to” devotional to assist new Taylor students.
While the university has many available resources for new students on posters and online, there has never been one cohesive document. Many helpful tips and information can only be found by asking fellow students or faculty.
“I thought of this idea because I recognized there was a need for one consolidated place for logistical information,” Boutell said. “I also realized adjusting spiritually to college is a challenge.”
To solve this issue, as part of her project, Boutell sent out a survey to assess the most commonly asked questions students had about transitioning to college. With that information, she took her proposal and turned it into her practicum.
Boutell spent the next few weeks gathering writers to fill the pages of “Guidebook for Your First Semester.” Forty-three students from various majors and grades contributed to this semester-long project.
“I think this book’s biggest value is in the multitude of different voices and perspectives, and the care that upperclassmen share to new students,” Boutell said. “There’s just so many beautiful voices.”
To compile the collection of devotionals from so many contributors, Boutell became the project’s manager and editor. The stories and devotionals written by students were ordered chronologically to best help new students. Subjects like homesickness are ordered near the front, while information about class registration can be found near the middle of the booklet.
Senior Ruth Boy was brought on to the project over the summer to take over the layout and design portion of the project. Boy used the weekly themes of the devotional to create intentional graphics for the pages.
The cover of the guidebook was inspired by a core proverb taught by Dr. Carol Sisson, associate professor of education: Taylor is a greenhouse, not a bubble. With this principle in mind, the book’s first impression is to help Taylor students grow in this season of life.
Boutell, Boy and Taylor continued to work on the project to get it into students’ hands for the start of the fall semester. Boutell worked with Scott Gaier, the director of the Academic Enrichment Center, from the beginning to make technical decisions on the presentation and incorporation of the booklet for the incoming class of students.
At the start of the Fall semester, the university printed and distributed 625 copies of the spiral-bound guidebook.
“I was really proud of her. It was a lot of work!” Taylor said.
“Guidebook for Your First Semester” presents a holistic collection of information and spiritual insight. It offers freshmen and new students a permanent, clear and intentional guide to entering a new stage of life.
“If they use it once, it's worth it,” Boutell said. “If they use it all semester, it's worth it.”