We want to have students love it here, and we want our students to stay connected to Rensselaer after they graduate.
says Lisa Trahan, the dean heading the new office.
I have so many friends because of the Navigating events, says Esther Garcia 05. The overnight experience was a whole bunch of fun. I think it made the freshman class closer and didnt limit us to making friends with people in our own residence halls. I wouldnt be surprised if I decided to apply for the position as an adviser next year, just so I can make more new friends.
I also really liked the overnight experience at Silver Bay, says Lynch. It provided group activities that required a lot of the skills needed to survive in college, like teamwork and perseverance.
Trahan envisions her role as breaking down walls, so that new students can form kinship groups early, and can feel immediately a part of a campus that works better together. The office is working with campus departments to establish the most effective programs for all first-year undergraduate, transfer, and graduate students. Advisory committees of students, alumni, faculty, and staff will provide the new office with feedback and insight about orientation programs.
One goal of the program is to give incoming students a structured entry process that exposes them to all that Rensselaer has to offer. Orientation now includes a much stronger emphasis on the nuts and bolts of college life, such as meal plans and housing, peer-to-peer mentoring, promotion of fall activities, behavioral expectations of students, institutional vision and values. It also includes a concurrent orientation for parents.
Ariana Twitchell 02, this years President of the Union, took part in a number of the events. At weeks end, she and Grand Marshal Gil Valadez 02 officially welcomed the new class to campus at the First-Year Convocation.
It was clear that this class was different, Twitchell says. They seemed much more confident than any other class I had seen. We visited with the class after the event and everyone was standing around in groups, visiting with friends theyd already made. They seemed very comfortable and confident even though they had only been here for a week.
Once the new students have settled into campus life, other questions are sure to crop up. Programs that build upon the orientation experience may include moderated mailing lists and affinity programs for first-year students, optional outdoors and wilderness trips, training services for software and technology skills, and assistance with class registration tasks and student advising.
This year, in conjunction with the Office of the First Year Experience, a faculty steering committee will review the first-year curriculum to ensure that students will have opportunities to learn techniques that assure successboth in the classroom and in their future careers. There will be an increased focus on entrepreneurship, as wellfrom a students first days at Rensselaer and throughout the curriculum.
Another new initiative, called Preparing the Global Citizen, is aimed at building a global citizenship program for students around issues of diversity and cultural awareness. The initiative has been funded with a three-year, $150,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The objectives of the first-year experience are to advance the overall student experience at Rensselaer, says Trahan, and ultimately to lay the foundation for a life-long attitude of cultural awareness and tolerance.
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