Mission Possible: Encouraging Peer Engagement at the Freshman Level

Presented by: Amy Crumpton

Students entering an interior design program are at best unfamiliar with the “real” profession of Interior design, or the educational process they have begun.  They are also often dealing with being away from home for the first time, having to make new friends and navigating the college experience.  In order to help them quickly acclimate to this new world and encourage freshman students to engage with peers at all levels of the program, the Mission Possible experience was created, based on the Mission Impossible movie theme.

As part of their regular freshman studio class, students were required to watch the video, “Interior Design More than Meets the Eye" produced by the American Society for Interior Designers and had to write a reflection addressing the following:

“How did the descriptions in the video make you feel about your proposed career? Describe some of the specifics from the video that contributed to your feelings. What attitudes have you already encountered about the profession of interior design based on selecting this as a major and signing up for this course?”

Students were then paired randomly with another student in class and the Mission possible assignment was handed out.  They first watched a “Mission Briefing” video, complete with the self-destruct sequence at the end, getting them in the correct frame of mind to go after their targets. Each team was assigned a junior and a senior student.  They were only given a picture of each student (their freshman ID photo) and no indication what year they were. They were also given a list of questions for each student and also were to create some additional questions to round out the set. They had a week to find their targets and “interrogate” them, using “whatever means necessary”. 

The juniors and seniors were informed about the assignment and were excited about the ability to impart their knowledge to the freshmen.  They were also a little sneaky about being found and helping the freshmen find their targets. The process was fun to watch and was very interactive for all of the students involved.   At times, even other professors were involved when a freshman was lost about finding a specific upperclassman.  As one can imagine, students sometimes change significantly between their freshman picture and their senior “look”.  As one student stated, “I was talking to one of the freshman who was looking for ME and she was telling me how she couldn’t find this person. Everyone at the table was trying to give her hints, but she was just oblivious…  finally, I broke down and held the picture up to my face!” She was still not sure it was me…  but she took my word for it.”

The final part of the assignment was to write up the “interrogations” and summarize what the pair learned from the assignment.  Each pair got two (or more) new friends with phone numbers and schedules for help and support throughout the year.  They also got an immense amount of information about how to succeed in the major and what the profession of Interior Design was all about.  They also learned that upperclassmen are just people and are actually excited to share information with them.  Overall, based on the reactions of all of the students (at all levels) the Mission Possible experience accomplished the goals of increasing peer engagement across our program.


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