Volume 7, Number 2, 1998

New Residence Life program eases transition for new students

Freshman year offers new friends, new classes and new experiences. For many students, these changes can be difficult to handle. To make the transition easier, the Office of Residence Life initiated the 1997-98 First-Year Experience (FYE) program, "Planting the Seeds for Success."

"This program is designed to help students get the resources they need to be successful at the University and to connect with the community," Jason Laker, assistant area coordinator for south central campus, says. Laker devised the program with co-coordinator Dan Blank, assistant area coordinator for west campus.

Although the majority of colleges and universities in the country offer similar first-year programs, Laker says, UD's program has unique components. Previously, the program offered one event each month. Now, there is an activity almost every night.

"Planting the Seeds for Success" is divided into two tiers: "Welcome to College" and "Seed the Feeder Programs." The first presents students with a resource packet containing information about FYE, campus resources, academic and activity calendars, "tip sheets" and a campus map. Resident assistants are given workbooks to help them assist new students with the resource packets and with typical freshman crises.

"A workbook consists of explanations of each program, calendars and topics to discuss with the students," Laker says. "A weekly report form is included as well, which the resident assistant fills out and discusses with the hall director."

The workbook is designed for resident assistants to help students adjust to college life and become involved in campus and community activities. FYE describes these activities as "Seed and Feeder Programs."

Seed programs refer to events that the residence life staff plans. They are designed to improve self-esteem and communication skills, create service and leadership opportunities and develop alternatives to drinking.

"We want to de-emphasize alcohol abuse, so we plan activities for the weekends and nights," Laker says. Seed programs can be anything from educational trips to multicultural festivals. For October, FYE planned a trip to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair as well as a Homecoming tailgate party.

Each complex composed mostly of freshmen is required to plan one seed program during the school year. Although the programs must encompass FYE's priorities, Laker says, there is a great deal of autonomy on how to meet this requirement. For example, a complex may be asked to do a health education program. They then decide on the precise topic, which can be anything from exercise to nutrition.

Feeder programs are planned by other University or community departments and organizations, such as Newark Community Day, theatre performances, Major Mania and the Volunteer Fair. Residence life staff members encourage first-year students to attend the various activities and become involved with the community and the faculty.

"If students connect with resources socially and academically, they are more likely to be successful," Laker says.

For additional information on the First-Year Experience program, contact Laker at (302) 831-3003.

-Heather Miller AS '98