We had the chance to interview the Dean of the First Year Experience Janelle Fayette. She talked to us about what she wants students to get out of their freshman experience and how it helps them make the transition to independence.
When our parents went to college, the general mantra was “pull up your bootstraps.” They were told to suck it up and deal with problems on their own. The goal of Student Orientation and Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond is to help students through experiences like finding someone to sit with in the cafeteria. It’s a comforting experience to know what’s going on in an unfamiliar place. Freshman year is such a crucial time that President Shirley Ann Jackson has arranged such events to help students accommodate into college.
The first event each new student experiences is the summer Student Orientation. Fayette described it as “the nuts and bolts” of coming to Rensselaer. Questions such as “Where am I going to live?” or “Did I pick the right major?” are answered during orientation. Her view was that new students should meet their peers and professors, while also registering for classes and getting in the last few forms. All of the things a new student might be worried about– such as dorms, food, classes, etc.— are all settled during SO. She finds that students feel much better once they have gone to SO.
Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond is meant to get the new students integrated into life on campus. The first few days are purposely very structured to develop new relationships and meet people with similar interests. As the week progresses students are given more freedom to “choose their own adventure” by tuning their schedule to what is important to them.
Even after NRB week is over, the support for new students does not end. A set of events called the “transition series” are highly recommended for all incoming students, as well as the Fall Activity Fair. The events will again help students meet new people and recognize others from campus. Later, Fayette advises first year students to attend the career fair regardless of whether are currently seeking a job or not. The event is a great way to know what jobs are available as well as how to build résumés.
After NRB, Fayette hopes that new students feel integrated into Rensselaer. If the week succeeds, students will know everything the school has to offer so they can start to take advantage of it the first week, not the last of the first semester.