Rebecca Bainer — General Assignment Reporter
Due to Hurricane Irene, the freshmen Welcome Weekend that included a series of events intended to bring freshmen together at the start of the school year, a component to the First Year Experience Program, were cancelled and rescheduling for these events is in the works.
The FYE program has been in place since 2007 as a way to bring the academic and social aspect of the campus together, said Nicole Hendersen, academic director and associate professor of English.
“The program really means to be a melding. Traditionally universities have been split between academic affairs [and] student affairs,” said Hendersen. “We think that in order to fully educate a student we need to bring those two areas together.
So, we work on doing that by having teachers with classes participate in events and have assignments connected to them.”
Many universities have their own version of an FYE program, but Hendersen said Southern’s program incorporates so many different areas of a new student’s life that it could be considered a movement rather than just a program.
“It’s a rethinking of how we deal with students,” said Hendersen, “whether it’s in the financial aid office, or it’s in the classroom or it’s in the residence hall. So everyone kind of has their hand in this program.”
One of the components to the program is the New Student Orientation that was completely changed in 2007 and has been slightly
revised yearly, said Hendersen. The orientation was moved from August to June and students stay overnight as part of what Hendersen called a “readiness model.”
“Instead of trying to tell you everything you need to know about Southern in two days in August before you start school, we now spread it out with this readiness model,” said Hendersen.
“We give students what they’re ready for and can actually comprehend at the time. Then we bring them back again [for] Welcome Weekend.”
A part of orientation and Welcome Weekend is the “Open Book, SCSU’s Freshmen Read,” which Hendersen said is a common book given to freshmen at orientation to read over the summer. The author of this year’s book, Wes Moore, was supposed
to come to campus for Welcome Weekend, but the event was cancelled due to the weather.
“We had a whole weekend of [events] that were cancelled because of the hurricane,” said Denise Bentley-Drobish, director of Student Life. “What we’re trying to do right now is scramble to reschedule, including the author for the common
Bentley-Drobish said a guest speaker who speaks on topics such as sexual assault and safety is also being rescheduled. But there are some definite events coming up for freshmen, such as a club fair, the Day of Service, the New Student Convocation and a university picnic is in talks to be scheduled.
“There’s a lot of them,” said Bentley-Drobish of the over 1,200 incoming freshmen. “We had fantastic participation and they really seem like a great group, really enthusiastic. They’re used to being involved in their high school, so we’re really excited to be working with them.”
Bentley-Drobish said her biggest advice to ease the transition for freshmen is to be advocates for themselves.
“They need to ask questions.” said Bentley- Drobish. “They need to speak out to faculty, staff, student leaders and let them know what their questions are.”
Hendersen said the most important thing she thinks freshmen can do to ease the transition is to make a system to visualize their schedules, inside and outside the classroom.
“Their lives have changed dramatically in terms of scheduling and structuring. They are no longer in school from A to B,” said Hendersen. “They now are in the position of having to structure their own lives.”
To keep track of students throughout the rest of the first semester, freshmen take an Inquiry class that Hendersen said is an academic seminar called Creative and Intellectual Inquiry. Their professor for this course also becomes their adviser.
“There’s a lot about the process of coming to know things, and find things out, coming to conclusions,” said Hendersen of the course’s content, “while at the same time getting them involved on campus.”
Hendersen said with all that is being done around campus to ease the transition for freshmen it is ultimately the students themselves who are responsible for their new lives.
“We respect their independence,” said Hendersen, “at the same time that we realize they’re in a transitional phase and they need different things than seniors do. So, we try to structure things for them a little bit to ease the transition in their first
semester. We really believe they have to transition into full on independence.”