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First Year Experience Task Force reccomends changes to be implemented during future new student orientations

<st Year Experience Task Force was constructed in response to the concerns of CSA, College Counsel, Education and Curriculum Committee which expressed a desire “to review the whole experience” according to Caitlin Fleming ‘09, CSA president.

President Oden appointed Task Force to evaluate the first year experience including New Student Week. It consisted of faculty, staff, and students.

Members of the Task Force were: Nimo Ali, ’11, Katie Blanchard, ’10, Ellen Esch, ’11, Ariel Vandevoorde, ’09, Chico Zimmerman, Deborah Gross, Clara Hardy, Joe Baggot, Liz Ciner, Heather Tompkins, Steve Wisener, and Meg Otten.

“They were all at New Student Week 2008…[and]… were trying to guage how students, faculty, and staff all reacted to [the events],” said Flemming.

“We also observed NSW at other institutions: Macalester, Grinell, St. Olaf, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire,” said Chico Zimmermen, Professor of Classical Languages and Coordinator of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching. Zimmermen also co-chaired the Force Task along with Joe Baggot, Associate Dean of Students.

“Carleton could go a long way compared to what other colleges do,” said Blanchard ’10, member of the Task Force.
The Task Force also collected data via surveys from new students, New Student Week Leaders, and academic advisors.

“First year students filled out a survey about 5 weeks into the term about their New Student Week experience. We also had survey data from the New Student Week Leaders, and [data] about the common reading,” said Zimmermen.

“[They] were charged with making recommendations on advising prior to classes, registration, academic and res life orientation, arrival dates, and common reading,” said Flemming.

Some of the recommendations were:

1. That New Student Week should be coordinated by a steering committee, not just campus activities, which does not have all the resources it needs. And that the steering committee should have a statement of purpose to guide the week.

2. That the first day should be less busy and the number of groups a new student is incorporated in should be limited. Right now, new students are bombarded with groups including common reading group, New Student Week group, floor group, advising group, etc. To give people a more sustained connection the number of groups will be decreased or some groups will be combined.

3. That the days should coher more, and may take on different themes.

4. To keep the Wednesday to Sunday model.

5. To incorporate a focused diversity event.

6. To keep the Academics Fair.

7. To provide more guidance about classroom expectations, since many professors find a wide range of preparedness in students on the first day of class.

8. To better monitor the needs of early arrivals like athletes and students from abroad and to find a way to incorporate them.

9. To continue with summer registration for now.

10. To make support services more visible and to better informed new students about where they can get help.

11. To continue to increase student feedback.

12. Using internet more for preparations that needs to be done for NSW.

Zimmerman says of the Task Force’s duty, “It was important to look at [NSW[ because the faculty are looking at a new set of graduation of requirement, some of which the first-year experience speaks to. A lot of our work gave further context for the new grad requirements.” For example the possibility of adopting a required first year seminar was discussed.

“If the college ends up adopting mandatory first year seminar, which under review by faculty right now,… certain academic elements of new student week could be incorporated into the seminar. For example, the same group that you advise with might be linked with [the] seminar,” said Fleming.

Zimmerman said of the possibility of a required first year seminar, “If we vote in a freshman seminar, it would be a good vehicle for registering, [which is how other colleges approach it].” Zimmerman noted that many of the surveys showed students were anxious about registering during the summer, before they had a chance to talk to faculty.

“One of things that we strongly recommend is a focused diversity event. That was my favorite recommendation. An event focused on differences as a way to emphasize the college’s seriousness about it and set the tone for campus climate early on,” said Zimmerman.

The First Year Experience Task Force did not come to a conclusion on a few issues including: pre-frosh trips, which they suggested the steering committee further examine.

“It is clear that some things want more data and more extended study. One of those things is advising. Advising should be embedded in other things we do,” said Zimmerman.

Because of the short time frame over which New Student Week is being reworked, Julie Thornton, new Associate Dean of Students, “is…the one in charge of getting things started because New Student Week Leaders need to be hired soon, [which requires an idea] of what we are looking for in leaders which would come from what we want from New Student Week,” said Fleming.

“All of these recommendations wouldn’t be able to be made for this upcoming year,” said Fleming. Instead, “the changes will come in phases…”

Changes to New Student Week, as suggested by the Task Force, should be more formally announced this coming spring term.

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