The class of 2018 will have an advantage. While they still have the same pre-orientation and orientation offerings as the upper class students, starting with their class in the fall of 2014, Hamilton College will institute the “First Year Experience” or FYE. The program will transition the first-year student from high school to college and enhance their sense of belonging as soon as they arrive. Beginning with the residence halls and continuing into the classroom and advising programs, you begin to see how FYE will be many hands across campus working together for positive results for our students.
26 groups of approximately 20 first-years will be led by 22 RAs in first-year residence halls plus four additional FYE leaders who would live in Dunham singles. FYE leaders will organize activities, meet with and serve as resources for first-year RAs, and collaborate with individuals across campus on FYE events. First-year residence halls will include: Major, Keehn, Dunham (basement, 1st and 2nd floors), South (3rd and 4th floors), North, Wallace Johnson (Wally J) and Wertimer. To accommodate these changes to the residence halls, the College will renovate single rooms into doubles over the summer.
For the first time in the College’s history, the Class of 2018 will register for their fall classes online. Over the summer, students will select their top 10 courses and will then be tentatively registered for four of them. Included in the registration options will be the opportunity to take one of approximately 25 first year courses, taught by faculty members from a wide variety of departments, which will be exclusive to first-years only. In most cases, the student’s first-year course instructor will also serve as the student’s advisor.
The programming involved in FYE is extensive. The FYE program will kick off with a fun, large-scale event, a Casino Night for example, for all first-years the first weekend after orientation. For the first six weeks, FYE groups will meet at a designated weekly time for core FYE sessions. For example, wellness, time management, study skills, etc. FYE leaders will determine final program ideas and structure. First-year students will also be encouraged to attend College events – Leadership initiatives, academic lectures, visual and performing arts events, Career Center workshops, CPR Training, Safe Zone Training and even athletic/intramural events. The list is long and varied and will be solicited over the summer and early fall for FYE designation.
FYE leaders carry a good deal of the responsibility for programming as well as the responsibility of being a peer advisor, role model, facilitator and a resource for groups of 15-20 first-year students. They will work in collaboration with fellow FYE leaders as well as the Resident Advisor staff. The students will attend training sessions in May and August as well as participating in New Student Orientation. The training does not stop there; they will participate in on-going staff development sessions held throughout the academic year as needed. The leaders will be required to submit weekly reports, have a bi-weekly meeting with Travis Hill and have one formal evaluation meeting per semester. FYE leaders will be compensated with full room credit for the full year or half room credit if they are allowed to serve one semester.
The program is the result of a great deal of work across several divisions of the College. The Dean of Students, the Dean of the Faculty, office of the Registrar and the Residential Life Office to name just a few! We are here for the students and wish all facets of this inaugural program smooth sailing!
My personal thanks to Meredith Harper Bonham, Senior Associate Dean of Students for Strategic Initiatives, for making the article possible. ~RPJ