Integrating SAIL Into
First-Year Seminar

To see the goal-directed activities and ideas that participants generated during this intensive, please click here.

Over the course of two days, advisors and faculty converged to discuss the goals of SAIL, how they align with the goals of First-Year Seminar, and how that alignment translates into the students’ experience. Students over the course of their educational journeys are already engaging with SAIL in multiple areas at Northeastern. First-Year Seminar allows them to understand how the skills they will gain at Northeastern can transfer to the rest of their lives.

This two-day intensive provided an opportunity for First-Year Seminar instructors to discuss activities that will help their students achieve the shared goals of the First-Year Seminar and SAIL. Facilitator Dave Merry, Associate Director of Experiential Integration at CATLR, noted that “how we share goals [in the syllabus] helps students learn better.”

SAIL’s goals for learners, which are listed below, overlap significantly with the goals of the First-Year Seminar.

  1. Connect skills to experiences in all aspects of one’s life
  2. Integrate learning across experiences
  3. Articulate learning to oneself and to others
  4. Leverage networks
  5. Self-directed learning
  6. Holistic development

Overall there are multiple ways to integrate SAIL into First-Year Seminar. During the first day of the intensive, participants worked in teams to brainstorm major course activities that would demonstrate students’ accomplishment of one of the First-Year Seminar’s main goals.

One group ideated a project in which students would demonstrate their empathy and advocacy skills, along with specific knowledge about campus resources gained in the First-Year Seminar, by creating a resource guide for future incoming Huskies.

Another group focused on first-year students’ experiences of networking and building strong personal communities, which they could then visualize and reflect on by creating a social map at the end of the semester. A third group sought to highlight the importance of well-being and self-care, providing students the opportunity to create a “personal care manifesto” throughout the class.

Several other activities were shared during the intensive. One activity that encourages students to think with a SAIL mindset was created by Rebecca Riccio (CSSH): Identifying and Building Key Skills. In the first part of this two-part activity, students complete a pre-assessment at the beginning of the semester that includes the following tasks:

  1. List the top 10 skills you aspire to build to be an effective and ethical citizen-leader and social change practitioner.
  2. Provide a 1-2 sentence explanation of why you think each item is important.
  3. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 for each skill.

Then, in the post-assessment at the end of the semester, students answer the following questions:

  1. Would you choose the same skills? Which would you remove/add? Why?
  2. Write your final list, and rate yourself 1-10.
  3. Did you develop these skills this semester? How so?

When Riccio conducts this assessment, she says that the best outcomes are when students rate themselves the same or lower in a skill because she feels the students have a better understanding of what the skill means and what goes into growing in it.

Another quick activity that gives an easy introduction to SAIL is the SAIL Backward-Mapping Exercise (PDF). This allows students to visualize where they are doing well and areas for growth within the SAIL dimensions.

Merry pointed out that when you add past opportunities to the SAIL platform, it helps students re-evaluate their experiences within the context of the SAIL skills. This can apply to things like their resume or interviews where students can articulate “not what I did, but what I learned.”

Often in First-Year Seminars, educators ask students to think about their goals and make plans for what they want to achieve and how they can get there. The SAIL platform includes a tool for creating goals, finding related opportunities, and monitoring their progress toward their goals. Educators can also suggest opportunities in the platform to their students, and relate it to various topics in the First-Year Seminar. “It’s a way of centralizing [goals] and achieving them,” said Merry.

The SAIL Network provides a great way for students to connect with others around co-ops, experiences, and programs. When students arrive on campus, they will have been told to map their prior experiences in SAIL so that when they come to school, their educators will be able to view them. In order to connect with them, make sure you join the network!

Another great resource for reflection during First-Year Seminar are Moments, which allow students to quickly note learning experiences they’ve had and relate them to opportunities and goals so they can track how they have learned and grown over time.

Other useful resources from the SAIL site include:

  • The How to SAIL page with guides and resources for educators and learners
  • The SAIL Experience page that houses videos of students talking about how they benefited from SAIL

If you have any other questions or are interested in learning more about integrating SAIL into First-Year Seminar or another course, please contact us at