FYI on First Year Experiences

What does a year of orientation look like? Clark introduces new First Year Experience orientation program

Image courtesy of Clark University

Image courtesy of Clark University

Mary Kelley, Scarlet Staff

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Clark University has rolled out a new program called “The First Year Experience,” or FYE, which is essentially a year-long orientation, brought about from feedback given by recent graduates, many of whom specifically cited their first-year experience as their most challenging time at Clark. 

The first year is a time that could be greatly improved with more support from the administration. Former students mentioned the amount of time they wasted not utilizing campus resources, due to their own ignorance. Seeking to rectify these shortcomings was the impetus for creating the FYE program. The first semester of 2018 was when the program was started on a trial basis, and the success of that trial led to the entire freshman class of 2019 being enrolled into this program.

The First Year Experience starts with orientation and ends with the end of the first year. This is an obvious conclusion that is somewhat odd considering that it is essentially an orientation for the entire academic year. At the first week orientation, students are introduced to many of the resources available at Clark, with special emphasis on the value of Campus Police. 

The consensus? The end of the first weekend results in exhaustion. So much happened in a span of four days: moving to a new place, a new country (for some people), meeting new people, and forging new experiences. Then, there are all the workshops and presentations foisted onto an already anxious and scared student body! 

The content is helpful, but somewhat overwhelming when mixed with everything else that comes into play when starting college for the first time. Orientation was a great experience and most likely, could not have been prolonged to include all the information needed by incoming students if Clark wished to also have the students attend classes. This is why the FYE is much more broad and spread out.
Once or twice a week there is a presentation, so far the first year class has sat through “Life in Worcester” and “Dealing with Stress.” These presentations, again contain helpful content, but can feel crammed into the busy lives of first years. Students run from one class, to an hour long meeting, and then run to another class. Some students have had to miss class in order to attend these (mandatory) presentations. Although the information is important and students are introduced to Clark in a deep and rich way, having to follow this schedule on top of adjusting to classes and maintaining a social life can be very challenging. Maybe if the FYE events were set on weekends the content would be more appreciated by the freshman class, rather than seen as an inconvenience at times.

There are also gaps in first year information. Most pressingly, my own confusion about swipes and swaps in Higgins and the Bistro. Plenty of students still don’t know how to get to Health Services. How to print papers or how to set up the school Wifi on personal devices. These are all aspects of transitioning to life on a college campus and could have been covered in orientation or any of the presentations since then, and yet most first years are learning these things through trial and error.

Personally, knowing how much effort the administration is putting into ensuring the comfort and safety of incoming freshman is comforting to me. The enthusiasm is contagious. I want to attend every street fair. I want join the student-led protests. I want to join a dozen clubs. I want to connect with faculty. Yes, there are still gaps in my knowledge that I assume could be rectified with a quick PowerPoint presentation, but that is just the nature of new programs like the FYE. My hopes are that the administration continues to listen to feedback and hopefully someone will tell me if I can get ice anywhere without using a swipe at the Higgins Cafe.