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Life After Mills: Support Group for Seniors

A flier for the weekly senior support gathering. (Photo by Amanda Polick)
A flier for the weekly senior support gathering. (Photo by Amanda Polick)

The Life After Mills Support Group for Seniors is an exciting first for the Mills community. While there have been a number of support groups on campus, Life After Mills is the first group that caters specifically to graduating seniors.

Life After Mills Support Group is led by Shannon McDonell, a Career Counseling Intern, and  Assistant Director of Counseling and Psychological Services and Mills College Counselor Jennifer Panish, PsyD. As part of her Masters counseling program internship at Mills, McDonell thought it would be beneficial to have a space where seniors could come together and support one another during this hectic time in their college career. With wanting to address students’ futures, values and passions, McDonell also believed it would be helpful to discuss specific skills and resources that are needed to move forward. Looking back at her time as a senior, McDonell realized how beneficial it would have been to recieve help and guidance during such a frantic time.

Graduation can be an exhilarating time in a student’s life, but it can also be very daunting. Emotions and stress levels are high, and with a looming finish line in the distance, questions begin to arise that can make graduating seem lackluster: What will I do after school? How will I stay in touch with my friends? Will I find my dream job? Am I really ready to leave?

When asked about how life has been after graduation, Jesse Ewing, a recent Mills graduate, says that life has been pretty good, but there have been some struggles that she has faced.

“I’m struggling to figure out how I can use my current degree to get a decent job while I’m attending school for my next degree,” Ewing said. “Deciding what additional degree I want has also been a struggle.”

McDonell and Panish have singled out topics that will be discussed every week to help address the assortment of concerns faced by seniors. These will include grad school, resume building, financial independence, navigating changes, and many others.

“Students would have an opportunity to address those gaps that they may have in terms of moving from academic life to post-grad life,” McDonell said. “Life After Mills will give people a chance to sit and process feelings that could hit you all at once.”

As with any of the support groups on campus, there is a strict confidentiality clause that prohibits everyone from sharing intimate details outside of the group. So the fact that you may have eaten two boxes of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies instead of finishing a midterm will stay within the group, judgment free! 

Photo of the Mills Chapel taken in 2011 by Tymeesa Rutledge. Location of where the Life After Mills Support Group for Seniors is held.
Photo of the Mills Chapel taken in 2011 by Tymeesa Rutledge. Location of where the Life After Mills Support Group for Seniors is held.

“These support groups are a great way for folks to not only talk about what’s on their mind, but hear from other students about similar and different struggles,” Panish said.

The biggest hurdle that Life After Mills has faced is the lack of students involved. A number of fliers were placed around campus to help bring awareness and student engagement to the support group, yet the group’s first meeting only garnered a handful of participants. Maintaining regular attendance is another concern.

While most support groups close at a certain point, Life After Mills will remain open and welcomes all seniors who may find this experience rewarding. In the past, Mills has tried to create a culture of support groups on campus, hoping to show the Mills community how useful they can be. Unfortunately, the turnout has not always been great. By leaving this support group open, Panish and McDonell have allowed for more accessibility.

“I hope these groups offer not only concrete advice for people, but a place where they can feel safe, heard, understood, and heal,” said Panish.

For more information about support groups and/or individual counseling sessions, please contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 510.430.2130.