First-Year Experience: Timeline
Will I make friends easily? I miss all my friends from high school.
The summer before: The first-year experience at William Jewell begins long before new students set foot on the campus as members of its community. A new student is assigned to and contacted by a mentor in July. The mentor—a returning student carefully selected and specially trained for helping new students through the toughest parts of the high school to college transition—is soon in contact with the new student: answering questions, sharing advice, assuaging fears, and, most importantly, developing friendship. By the time first-years come to William Jewell, they have a friend.
I don’t know anyone and don’t want to go by myself – I think I’ll just stay in my room.
New Student Orientation: The four-day event offers William Jewell’s formal introduction to college life. Taking place immediately before classes begin in August, Orientation acquaints new students with campus organizations, activities, facilities, faculty, staff, and new classmates. More importantly, Orientation introduces students to the deeper aspects of the William Jewell’s collegiate mission, involving students in a workshop on teambuilding and problem-solving, preparation for class work, opportunities for spiritual involvement, and participation in a community service activity. Mentors are with first-year students every step of the way, guiding them through the events and insuring that they are not alone or alienated at any moment.
I am so intimidated by these professors. They must think I am so stupid. I don’t even understand how this whole college thing works.
First-Year Student Advising: Each professor at William Jewell College serves as an academic advisor for 10 to 15 students, first-year through senior. A detailed advising program designed for first-year students is in place to help facilitate this relationship beginning with a meeting on the very first day of classes. Within the first six weeks of college, each new student will meet at least 1 time with her advisor before registering later in the fall for the spring semester. Faculty members are in close contact with the Dean of Students/First-Year Experience and the Associate Director for Student Development Programs, keeping them informed of any concerns regarding a student so that appropriate intervention may take place.
I’m afraid to walk into my first class. I won’t know anyone. This is such a hard class. How can I get help understanding this professor
The Responsible Self: A critical aspect of the First-Year Experience and of the William Jewell College education is the “Responsible Self,” a course all students are required to take in their first semester at William Jewell. Reading texts from John Stuart Mills, St. Augustine, and others, the first-year students explore as a class the role of the individual in society and the responsibilities such membership carries from various literary, historical, and cultural perspectives. Relationships within the class are fostered, in part, through Orientation and the Mentor program. Mentor groups are formed from some of the members from their “Responsible Self” class—and typically led by a Mentor who took “Responsible Self” from the same professor. Mentor groups participate in the team-building Adventure Day leadership workshop, and the numerous other activities during Orientation. Thus, when they enter class on Wednesday, they have already developed respect for and friendship with their student colleagues, establishing comfort from the start and fostering open conversation and free thought.
If I need something or have a question, where do I go? Will anyone really care about me and how I’m doing?
The first semester: The Associate Director for Student Development Programs interviews the majority of the first-year students during the fall semester. Students having difficulty acclimating receive, of course, subsequent interviews. At the same time, she receives feedback from faculty, students, and families on each first-year’s progress in this regard. Level-I Core Curriculum education instructors provide the names of students who are struggling academically in their classes and the names of students who are excelling. The latter receive a letter of commendation from the Associate Director for Student Development Programs and the Associate Dean for Core Curriculum. Of those who are struggling, the Associate Director meets with each personally, and helps him to find the resources to pull himself through his difficulties. A comprehensive database is maintained to track each first-year student identifying key factors such as her network of resources (mentor, RA, CA, advisor), level of attendance at Orientation events, summary of individual interviews, advisor meeting attendance and feedback, organizational involvement, etc. This database is used to study student needs, track responses and identify those statistically at high-risk so that early intervention can be most effective. Confidential communication takes place between the Associate Director and a student’s network of resources to best serve each individual.
I’m really ready to see my family now. I have so much to share with them about my new home.
First Year Student Adjustment Questionnaire: The Office of the First-Year Experience sends a letter to each first-year’s parents that includes a series of questions for them to use in exploring their children’s success in adjusting to college. Typically, the student who remains on campus during the initial weeks and weekends of the first semester is well acclimated within six weeks of school. Homesickness occurs but at the same time as other students. Students experiencing this together help each other get through those difficult times. Fragmenting that time with visits home separates the student from the growing process that is occurring with their peers.
I’m ready to get involved, but I’m just a first-year.
Emerging Leaders Conference: Among the most significant events in the second semester of the First-Year Experience is the Emerging Leaders Conference. First-year students who possess leadership skills and an interest in developing and exploring those skills—particularly those students typically not placed in leadership positions—are nominated in November by faculty, staff, administration, and student alumni of the Conference. Nominees may submit an application and references and interview to be among those chosen for the Conference. The program includes a weekend retreat focusing on self-examination and personal growth socially, intellectually, and ethically; a paper read-in event at which students read a short essay describing a leadership role model; a service project completed by the entire group, leaving a legacy for the William Jewell College community; and a culminating Honor’s Reception, to which students may invite their parents and a faculty or staff leadership role model. The primary goals for this program are to encourage developing leadership skills and begin relationships among a network of future student leaders.
Pryor Leadership: William Jewell’s acclaimed experience-based leadership program, which incorporates leadership studies, real-world application, volunteerism, a major service project, and an Outward Bound experience in the Florida Everglades conducts its interviews for new members among the first-year students. The Pryor Leadership Studies program builds on the leadership development in the Emerging Leaders Conference to teach students leadership beyond the collegiate-level.
I didn’t do as well academically as I hoped I would. Am I still welcome here and how do I bring my grades up?
Still Struggling: The Coordinator of Tutoring and Advising, Janelle Dozar meets intensively with each first-year student who was placed on academic probation during the first semester. She assures they are making the necessary progress and developing the necessary skills to lift themselves from out of the margins and into academic stability.
My mentor made all the difference for me when I started school this year. I want to do the same for the new students coming in next fall.
Mentoring (Part 2): First-year students receive the opportunity to repay the favor to the mentors who worked so hard the previous summer, throughout Orientation, and during the school year by themselves becoming mentors. The application process begins in March, and interviews and selection in April. The students selected to be mentors undergo a training session in May and then, shortly after summer begins, begin contacting their incoming first-year students. In August, just before new first-years arrive on campus, the mentors will attend a two-day training seminar and then, of course, guide their first-years through the activities of Orientation.
Wow, I made it through my first-year and I did well. I wonder if anyone noticed.
Alpha Lambda Delta: Qualifying first-year students are invited to join the first-year honor society, Alpha Lambda Delta. An induction ceremony takes place for students and families in the fall.