December 11, 2020

Lab Seeks To Help Students Find Intentional Life

Launched this year within the Robert H. Smith School of Business’ Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets, the Intentional Life Lab seeks to help students at the University of Maryland develop their personal "why" and "how" toward an authentic life path.

Sarah Wolek, ECON, DIS ’01 and founding director of the lab, says she built the lab to offer courses and experiences that enable students to bring a self-reflective and entrepreneurial mindset to their own lives. The lab, which recently reached a milestone of raising $1 million in funding, uses a framework of six pillars of intentional living including purpose and character, wellness, prosperity, relationships, community and nature.

“During college, students are struggling to manage schoolwork, extracurriculars and job searches, and those pressures narrow their focus to their career. But a career choice can’t be made in isolation,” says Wolek. “It is ideally a reflection of your whole self – an understanding of which is only developed with intention. The lab’s work, hopefully, helps to center students’ academic and professional efforts around their authentic self while broadening their life vision beyond their career.”

In a year of firsts, the lab is piloting a series of courses, all of which are open to all UMD students. It has also partnered with Maryland Smith to offer workshops that cater to transfer students, 40 of whom were selected to participate in the pilot program this semester. The expectation, Wolek says, is to eventually interact with every Maryland Smith transfer student and help them take advantage of that transitional period in their lives.

“Transfer students have a very short runway to make the most of their business school experience and have the most urgency to be intentional about how they maximize their time at Maryland Smith,” says Wolek.

With time, Wolek says, the lab can help students break out of the mentality of defining themselves by their career alone.

“I am inspired by Joseph Campbell’s quote ‘If you are going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.’ So I ask Terps, what is their story going to be?” says Wolek. “How do purpose, character, relationships, community, wellness, prosperity, and nature play a part in their big story? Hopefully, they continue to engage with these questions throughout their journey.”

Jacqueline Manger, managing director of the Snider Center, says Wolek’s passion for the lab is an example of its teachings and principles in action.

“This lab is part of Sarah’s narrative and an intentional decision on her part to help others realize a life of consequence,” Manger says. “It’s a mission that focuses on enabling others to discover their own mission and purpose in life.”

The lab, says Rajshree Agarwal, executive director of the Snider Center, aligns with the center’s goals of educating students about creating a world where social progress is born of free and creative individuals who, driven by self-motivation, passion and a positive approach to trading value for value, make the world a better place.

“Our view of enterprise begins with the individual. Programs like our Intentional Life Lab enable students to engage in self-discovery and self-determination, so they can take advantage of the freedom of choice available in a free market system,” says Manger.

In the coming months, the lab plans to add more content, including webinars, videos and podcasts. However, having reached the funding milestone prior to entering its second semester, it has a strong foundation to build on over the next few years, Manger says.

“It’s a ringing endorsement to have accomplished this within a year. There’s an incredible amount of enthusiasm about what we’ve done so far, but there’s plenty more to come.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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