Why COMPASS? What does it mean?

COMPASS A Roadmap to Healthy Living was developed with the image of a navigator who has a compass helpful for providing directions. As noted below, it evolved from the book Charting Your Course: A Life-long Guide to Health and Compassion. The COMPASS perspective was used to inspire – in a positive, enriching way – students to take charge of their own lives. Specifically, COMPASS was built around the following themes important to students’ success:

CCreating You are the architect of your own future; you can create the overall vision, and specific directions you wish to follow.

OOptimizing You have the opportunity to take full advantage of the many campus and community resources; with this resource, you are encouraged to do this. It helps to have optimistic thinking and to engage the supportive people around you to maximize this opportunity.

MMapping To achieve your goals, it’s important to outline your overall goals and what it will take to achieve these goals. These can be broad and narrow. What’s important is to use the appropriate tools from your toolbox to help you achieve these goals.

PPlanning Helpful in achieving your dreams is planning; this helps organize your resources, and identify where you would benefit from assistance such as discussions, education, information, training, advising, and more.

AAchieving Progressing through small steps will be helpful in achieving your overall goals. Success points help you attain some confidence with your progress, and inspire you to achieve more.

SSteering As you move through your college career, you’ll undoubtedly need to make adjustments, whether in your major, activities, friendships, coursework, and overall goals. It's critical that you make thoughtful decisions, and manage the variety of opportunities that come your way so you stay "on track."

Succeeding You can succeed if you work hard, organize yourself, identify your resources and needs, and strive to balance your competing needs. It’s important to identify your strengths and areas that need improvement.

For a brief overview of the foundations, content, impact, and resources associated with COMPASS, see the brief video.

About Us

COMPASS: A Roadmap to Healthy Living, was developed by George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Public Health in 2003. It represents one part of an overall programmatic initiative designed to help students make a healthy transition to college, and to succeed while they are here. While the content can be valuable for students and others of all ages, it is designed with particular attention to the unique transition considerations faced by a student new to the college environment, whether as a freshman or a transfer student. Through its evolution, it is helpful for students of all levels – and even after graduation!

COMPASS was the culminating resource developed with a project hosted by Mason - Healthy Expectations. This project was designed to creative a positive, proactive culture on campus with responsible, informed choices about a range of issues common to the transition to college. With Healthy Expectations, students are encouraged to engage in a "life health planning process" centered around seven principles: Optimism, Values, Self-Care, Relationships, Community, Nature and Service. COMPASS incorporates numerous resources and elements to help inspire and motivate students to reach their fullest potential.

The Foundations of COMPASS

COMPASS is organized around seven life health principles. These principles – Optimism, Values, Self-Care, Relationships, Community, Nature and Service - emerged from an intensive think-tank process hosted in 1994 at the University of Notre Dame. This process was designed to create healthy campus communities, with a reduced negative impact of drugs and alcohol through the promotion of these seven themes. These themes are further documented in the book Charting Your Course: A Life-long Guide to Health and Compassion, published by the University of Notre Dame Press.

Grants from the U.S. Department of Education funded the initial development of the Healthy Expectations initiative at George Mason University, designed to provide greater focus to these seven life health-planning themes. Further, Healthy Expectationsdemonstrated reductions in drug and alcohol use at Mason during the years when it was fully funded. In 2006, The U.S. Department of Education named this initiative as a Model Program for addressing drug and alcohol abuse. With this funding, Mason project staff refined COMPASS and prepared a resource helpful for replication on other campuses: COMPASS Roadmap: Destination Health is included on this website as a resource for professionals.

Initially prepared as a CD-ROM with links to the internet and distributed directly to all Mason students,COMPASS is now fully incorporated on this website. It is not designed to take the place of students’ involvement with the campus faculty, staff, student leaders, and others as individuals or group settings; in fact, these resources are designed to encourage more active engagement of these many resources.

Further, while COMPASS addresses the most widely cited issues facing students, it does not include all the issues and concerns that students might face during the year. Further, for each topic or issue included, COMPASS provides a brief introduction and overview, designed to connect students with the numerous resources on the campus, in the community, and nationally.

All in all, COMPASS provides students with an opportunity to learn about a range of topics and issues helpful for a successful transition to college. These are designed to help students outline their own direction, and to glean assistance and insight as appropriate.

Special Thanks

Mason faculty and staff developedCOMPASS and its many resources. The resources included represent many hours and reflective thought to provide students with the best collective insight about how to succeed in college. Certainly, there are no major answers or quick fixes. All of this is part of a process of individuals identifying personal dreams, and then making personal, individualized plans appropriate for reaching those dreams.

COMPASS was conceptualized as an innovative resource with a broad vision. The planners’ aim was to truly make a difference with Mason’s students, and for those on other campuses and communities that adopt this philosophy.

Initial funding for COMPASS and its host project, Healthy Expectations, was provided by grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Follow-on activities with COMPASS have been supported with resource assistance from George Mason University’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) and personnel at the Center for the Advancement of Public Health (CAPH). Student interns from academic programs within CEHD and the College of Health and Human Services have provided periodic resource assistance.

Key personnel involved with the development of COMPASS over its ten years of conceptualization, refinement, and enhancement include the following:

  • David S. Anderson, Professor and Director
  • Barbara Arnold, Resource Manager, CAPH
  • Devashish Chhetri, Program Associate, CAPH
  • Patricia Copeland, Office Manager, CAPH
  • Christopher de la Torre, Senior Editor, CAPH
  • Ron Heredia, Intern, CAPH
  • Justin M. Lux, Program Resource Manager, CAPH
  • Brenda Mueller, Director, Office of Technology Support, CEHD
  • Jacques Newgen, Program Resource Manager, CAPH
  • Rebecca Olsen, Research Assistant, CAPH
  • Candace Parham, Research and Evaluation Manager, CAPH
  • Craig Wilkinson, Project Coordinator, CAPH

Produced by

Center for the Advancement of Public Health
School of Recreation, Health and Tourism
College of Education and Human Development
4400 University Drive, MS 1F5
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444

Center for the Advancement of Public Health