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The College Life Series at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Making the Move From High School to College

Wed, 2013-08-21 16:08 -- katzme

Helping First-Year Students Adjust to Campus Life and the Local Community

August 21, 2013

Starting classes, meeting peers, and exploring a new geographical area all at once may seem intimidating for many first-year students making the transition to college and campus life. But, it doesn’t have to be that way, according to staffers in the Office of the First-Year Experience at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“When students arrive on campus, and especially in a new environment, it can be intimidating,” said Janelle Fayette, dean of the Office of the First-Year Experience. “As a new student, you’re thinking about moving into your residence hall, meeting your roommates, wondering what your first day of class will be like, and so much more. In addition, for the majority of our students, this may be the first time that they are living away from home, especially if it’s a great distance—for an extended period of time.”

This week, Rensselaer will officially welcome members of the Class of 2017, and introduce them to the local community through a weeklong series of events known as “Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond” (NRB). Created under The Rensselaer Plan in 2001, NRB is usually organized around three general themes: adventure/team building; cultural/historical; and community service. The incoming class of 1,424 new students will participate in more than 110 activities organized by Rensselaer staff, departments, and student clubs. The NRB program was supported by more than 400 student, faculty, and staff volunteers.

Some highlights of the week include: overnight trips to the Adirondacks and the Berkshires; volunteer opportunities with local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the city rescue mission to support housing construction, park clean-up, and serving meals to the homeless; building an electric vehicle or a hybrid go-kart; diving into the challenge of performing contemporary a cappella music; and learning a variety of modern forms of ballroom and Latin dances.

Additional activities include: working with residents and Rensselaer students to continue Hurricane Irene recovery and restoration efforts in Schoharie County; traveling to Little Brook Farm with the Rensselaer Equestrian Team to improve the quality of life of rescued horses; playing the sport of Quidditch; learning about Rensselaer traditions; working to produce and execute a live multimedia audio visual event; exploring sustainable building methods and then applying them to a real-world, hands-on project; all of which include interacting with a number of student clubs and campus departments.

“We want our students’ transition to college life to go as seamlessly as possible,” Fayette said. “NRB helps students forge new lasting friendships and create memories that will sustain them through four or five years of academically challenging course work. The goals of the program are to build affinity groups that bring students with similar interests together as well as helping students create strong, stable social communities inside and outside of the residence halls and classrooms. The ‘Beyond’ component of NRB represents the continued support given well into the year.

On Friday, Aug. 23, members of the incoming class will participate in the annual greeting at the 8th Street Approach, where Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson will greet and shake hands with each member of the class before they head down to Riverfront Park. The event will take place from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. The first-year students will also be honored during a brief ceremony featuring remarks from members of the Rensselaer campus community, and Troy city officials; including President Jackson, City of Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia, President of the Rensselaer Union Gretchen Sileo ’14, Grand Marshal Charles Carletta ’14, and the president of the Rensselaer Resident Student Association.

Also taking place on Aug. 23, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Rensselaer students, faculty, staff, and the members of Troy and surrounding communities are invited to attend the annual Welcome Festival, a free communiversity celebration featuring live entertainment, outdoor activities, arts, and crafts. The event will take place at the Troy Riverfront Park. In the event of rain, the Welcome Festival will take place in the Alumni Sports & Recreation Center (Armory) located on 15th Street.

The week’s activities will culminate with the First-Year Convocation event to be held on Sunday, Aug. 25 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the East Campus Athletic Village Arena. Members of the Class of 2017, President Jackson, and other members of the Rensselaer community will participate in the event. The ceremony, hosted by the Office of University Events, will feature a guest speaker: Linda Schadler, B.S., Ph.D., Russell Sage Professor of Material Science and Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the Rensselaer School of Engineering. The ceremony also includes a video compilation of the week’s activities.

In 2007, Rensselaer’s First-Year Experience program was highlighted by U.S.News & World Report as a “Program to Look For.”Aimed at encouraging students to build healthy and meaningful bonds with each other that will sustain them through four years of academically challenging coursework, the First-Year Experience initiative at Rensselaer includes programs such as the Tuesday Night Toolbox student success series, residence hall programming, and various academic student support initiatives offered by Rensselaer faculty, staff, and upper-class students.

For more information about the NRB program, visit: http://se.rpi.edu/orientation/freshmen/nrb/

Future issues of The College Life Series will explore issues related to the student experience, student/campus life, admissions, academics, student club activities, financial aid, public safety, residence life, health services, career development, and others.

Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050
E-mail: otitij@rpi.edu