Life Design at BGSU: Early engagement in Life Design leads to fulfilling college experience, opportunity to graduate early
Maria Signorino finds ‘truest version’ of herself through program aimed at redefining student success
By Laren Kowalczyk '07
This is an ongoing series on the impact Life Design has on students and how it is reshaping undergraduate education at BGSU.
As a freshman at Bowling Green State University, Maria Signorino eagerly looked forward to her weekly class on Life Design at BGSU.
Signorino was among the first cohort of students introduced to Life Design at BGSU in Fall 2020. The program provides students with extra support in addition to traditional advising and academic resources.
“I remember always feeling so energized after that class,” Signorino said. “I was always raising my hand, asking questions and participating in the discussions. It felt like my place.”
Signorino, now a junior, credits Life Design with setting her on a path of personal discovery that has shaped her college journey. BGSU is the only university in the nation offering Life Design on such a broad scale.
“I honestly don’t think I would have had the opportunities or experiences I’ve created for myself without Life Design and my coach,” she said. “It pushed me and challenged me.
“I love that I was given this experience in college that not only focuses on academics but prioritizes living a meaningful life.”
Life Design benefits
In the first-year seminar for Life Design, students create a blueprint of their ideal college experience and learn fundamental design thinking skills to help them navigate any obstacles they encounter.
They’re taught to reframe situations by looking at problems from different angles to discover a new solution or alternative path. Students learn to collaborate, take action and develop skills to adapt and move forward.
They’re also paired with Life Design coaches, who serve as guideposts, pointing students toward helpful resources as they explore, prototype and plan their future.
Signorino said the benefits Life Design provided her during the early weeks of her transition to college were crucial.
“That period of time in your life is such a transformational stage,” she said. “It’s such a big jump from high school to college, and with Life Design, you can really define the truest version of yourself and discover who you are.”
Finding and teaching inner peace
As a part of that self-discovery, Signorino said she developed an interest in meditation and reiki, a hands-on healing technique. After experiencing its many calming and stress-reducing benefits, she became passionate about sharing them with others.
Signorino talked to her Life Design coach, Gabe Dunbar, about leading meditation and reiki sessions for students, faculty and staff.
“I had all these thoughts and ideas bubbling up inside my head and Gabe was able to help me organize those thoughts and turn them into action,” she said. “He connected me with all the right people and encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone.”
In February 2021, Signorino began offering guided meditation and reiki at the University’s Student Recreation Center. She now facilitates sessions twice weekly and offers other mindfulness workshops as requested.
“To be able to help people find calmness and inner peace is equally as fulfilling to me as I feel like it is to them,” Signorino said. “I always feel rejuvenated after leaving those sessions.”
Dunbar said Signorino’s early adoption of Life Design concepts provided a solid foundation that she continued to build upon.
“Maria took action on the concepts learned in class and prototyped them outside of class, which is exactly what we hope students will do,” he said. “She created her own on-campus employment experience focused on meditation and wellness and has also diligently invested in her passion for her major and future career in environmental science.”
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Signorino, an environmental policy and analysis major, is on track to graduate in Fall 2023, a semester early. Signorino said the knowledge and tools she's gained through Life Design, which aims to help students graduate on time and with less debt, helped lead her to this point.
“I found exactly what I wanted through the life design process,” she said. “I got to live out my passion and create a path to my future career, but now I want to expand beyond this. I want to be out in the real world and test what I’ve learned.”
After graduation, Signorino is embarking on a six-month solo hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail. The trail travels through 14 states from Georgia to Maine and encompasses about 2,200 miles.
To her, the hike is a perfect metaphor for life design.
“Everyone hikes their own hike. Everyone has their own journey,” she said. “You can have people help and aid you along the way, but you’re the one in charge.
“Going through the challenge of hiking up the tallest mountain and feeling so exhausted at the end of the day, but getting up and doing it all again knowing you can is a compelling way to unlock parts of yourself. I’m excited for that process of self-growth, mindfulness and peace.”
Updated: 06/23/2023 02:25PM