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June 20, 2023

Foundation for Success: A Look at the ‘First Year Experience’ Program

by Jesse Wein-Gold

Transitioning from high school to early college is a transformative period, though the shift to greater independence and opportunity can prove challenging. This transition proved challenging to me as well, as I struggled to organize my time around college-level classes and essays rather than the worksheets that were typical in my highschool. My name is Jesse Wein-Gold and I’m currently working as a summer intern for Communications & Marketing. As part of my work, I’m able to share my experience as a first year student taking the First-Year experience course.

Starting Fall 2022, Simon’s Rock launched a new program called First-Year Experience (FYE). The FYE course began as part of an initiative from the previous Dean of Students, who recognized the need to facilitate a more successful transition for students entering college that better supported their engagement and wellbeing. Building upon the foundations of the previous program known as ACE (Active Community Engagement), FYE aims to support first-year students through a biweekly meeting–introducing and supporting students as they navigate everything from the arts to athletics.

Foundation for Success

The first semester of FYE focused on helping students transition to college and life away from home, with lessons on academic success, social dynamics, campus resources, and self-discovery. Outside the classroom, students attended faculty and staff-led events regarding sexual health, wellbeing, arts, culture, and a weekly physical activity class using the Kilpatrick Athletic Center’’s state of the art facilities. In the spring semester, students were asked to turn their focus outward with an emphasis on community engagement at Simon’s Rock and beyond. Students formed groups to plan, organize, and ultimately lead a service project for the school community. This culminated in an array of projects and opportunities available for the entire campus, such as the school-wide blood drive, a clean-up of Alford Road, and painting at Extra Special Teas. 

As a student entering halfway through the academic year (or, per Simon’s Rock slang a “JA —January Admit”), the FYE course served as an extended orientation. 

“As I progressed through my first semester, I was personally introduced to the various faculty, facilities, and resources that I would engage with throughout the semester. I did a breathing exercise with the wellness staff and an athletic orientation with the head of the Kilpatrick Athletic Center, though my favorite was learning about the future careers and opportunities available with the Director of Career Development. 

Faculty and staff from all different departments were tasked with leading their own section. 

For Student Success Advisor Kara Walker, “I loved the opportunity to meet first year students and better understand what it's like to be a student at Simon's Rock. As someone who is new to the school myself, it was nice to create a smaller community within the whole college community. I had a great group of students and truly enjoyed working with them.”

As for the future, Walker also shares, “We will be reviewing the curriculum this summer and determining what changes will be made. This was the first year of the course, so we received a variety of ideas on how to improve future iterations from faculty, students, and the administration.”