10 Ways Messina Helped Shape My First Year

By Victoria Affigne, '19  |  Photos courtesy of Victoria Affigne, '19

Self and Other. The Visionary. Stories We Tell. The Good Life.IMG_4017

I remember looking through the Messina brochure during registration for my first year at Loyola University Maryland, wondering how these “themes” would ultimately shape my first year of college.

At the time, this was a foreign concept; I didn’t fully understand what Messina was. I only knew that it was a mandatory program for all first-year students and I had to choose from one of four themes—and then even more specific class pairings within that theme. They all sounded interesting, but how would I choose the right one for me?

When I came to Loyola, I had been planning to major in elementary education. I decided on a suggested Messina course pairing within the Self and Other theme. The classes focused on children’s literature and examining language as a lens for learning about the self and other. Although an interesting topic, I spent my first semester doubting my intended major.

Because of class trips and discussions, I recognized my passion for serving others, but also realized that the classroom was not the place for me to do so.

I quickly discovered an interest in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences. With the guidance of my Messina advisor, I shifted my academic focus and made a plan that will allow me to pursue this major. While I’m confident I’d like to use a degree in Speech-Language-Hearing-Sciences to work in a hospital or medical setting rather than a school, I have had a unique introduction to the Education major at Loyola and the art of teaching. Messina helped me to find my passion and gear my academic career at Loyola more closely to my interests.


My class incorporated education and literacy when we read to the young students of Archbishop Borders School in Baltimore.

Now, as I near the final weeks of my first year at Loyola, I can reflect back and appreciate all the program has done to shape my experience.

Beyond guiding me to my future academic and professional goals, here are 10 Ways Messina helped shape my first-year experience:

1. Transitioning to college
In high school, I was warned about the challenges of a college workload, balancing social life, and finding time to be involved outside of class; however, I never realized how different college would actually be. My Messina Enrichment Hour stressed the importance of transition, independence, time management, and mental and physical health. It helped me actively make a plan for myself to find time to fit everything in, including even the most crucial things, like sleep, exercise, and stress management.

2. Living and learning with people who share my interests
I have met many great people through Messina. I don’t mean that I know the answers to their typical ice breaker responses: where they’re from, their favorite movie, or the three things they’d bring if they were stranded on an island. Messina takes advantage of the small group setting and allows you to create close relationships among peers that help to build upon your personal and academic success.

3. Enriching my life beyond the books
Enrichment Hour is unorthodox in that you’re not forced to cram for an upcoming exam or write a 15-page final paper. Instead, it is a time to relax and reflect on your life as a Loyola student. Messina classes enjoy having breakfasts together, exploring the city of Baltimore, and spending a lot of time reflecting on Jesuit values and personal beliefs.

4. Creating a close-knit community from the get-go
Everyone in my class enrolled in that particular course because they were interested in learning more about the Elementary Education major. Although some people branched off or even changed majors altogether, our class was still designed to benefit everyone. The advantages of meeting each other during our first semester will continue as we take classes together, participate in the same clubs and events, and are each other’s neighbors on Loyola’s campus.


My class attended the Baltimore Book Festival, held downtown in September.

5. Finding my academic path
My core advisor, Mark Lewis, Ph.D., became a great resource for changing my major and pursuing new opportunities. He also offered much-needed direction and support. He allowed my class to incorporate our own interests into his lessons; therefore, we were constantly learning valuable information and making connections.

6. Providing an experienced guide
Every Messina class is paired with an Evergreen, an upperclassman who leads first-year orientation in the summer and fall, and then works with first-year students through Messina. My Messina Evergreen attended Enrichment Hour and contributed to the discussions, sharing valuable perspectives on classes, campus involvement, life in Baltimore, and lessons they themselves have learned in college.

7. Having a Mentor
My Enrichment Hour mentor, Amy, is a track coach here at Loyola. Her leadership and unique perspectives were valuable to our class discussions, despite not being affiliated with the Education department. It was wonderful to make this connection early on to a member of the Loyola community who is outside of faculty and student services. Amy has served as a resource and a friendly face on campus.

AA Read In1

My classmate, Rachel Nichols, and I read to the third grade students for Black History Month. They were eager to get involved in the discussion and share their opinions about the stories.

8. Getting to know Baltimore, my home for the next four years 
My first semester professor, Margarita Zisselsberger, Ph.D., taught my class a lot about our community. As a class, we went into the Inner Harbor in the fall for the city’s annual Book Festival and spent a lot of time talking about the best places to visit, Baltimore’s history, art and culture, service opportunities—and why our community is one to be proud of.

9. Traveling into the city together
Class trips are the most enjoyable and rewarding part of the Messina program. Every group goes on unique excursions such as dinners at restaurants or even a professor’s house, day trips to Washington D.C., ice cream parlors in Hampden, or volunteering opportunities within the community.

10. Growing as an individual—and as a member of a team
My first-year is coming to a close and I will no longer meet with my class every week in Flannery O’Conner Hall. But this is not a goodbye. I have made lasting friendships and learned lessons about myself and the community that will continue to shape my future.

More about Messina:

The Journey to Messina

Why there’s a waitlist for Messina

Define Messina: \me-‘se-nä\

Donors enthusiastically support Loyola’s living learning initiative

President’s Message: Why Messina matters

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