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Jan 03

The New Freshman Orientation

Melissa Mikolowski

Melissa Mikolowski

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post by Kettering freshman Melissa Mikolowski, who will occasionally post her thoughts about her Kettering student experiences on Life at Kettering.If you’d like to write a guest blog post, e-mail jmurphy(at)kettering(dot)edu. Melissa’s other posts: Post 1

What once was known as Orientation 101 is known by the new generation of Kettering freshmen as FYE 101. Standing for “First Year Experience”, the course delves deeply into the simple roots of life at Kettering: social, mental, and physical. Transitioning from the dependent high school life to the independent college student presents incredible difficulty for some, and the class aims to smooth out the bumps in this transition. Kettering put together a weekly one-hour course to help students develop habits to get them through their years here. Each section is made up of a staff instructor, a student assistant, and students, all equipped with a guided textbook. A total of twenty-five faculty members and thirty student mentors (spread throughout summer and fall terms) are dedicated to implementing the course and tailoring it to what works best for the students.

The most significant changes to the course, according to student assistant Gabrielle Armstrong, arose in the atmosphere and the teaching style of the class. While it once lacked interaction between the students, their peers, and the instructor, the course now focuses on promoting these interactions through peer teaching and a discussion-based setting. Instead of forcing students into another one-hour lecture each week, the class provides students with an opportunity to learn from each other through shared experiences and knowledge. Armstrong continued to say that one of the benefits of the FYE course is “the way the information is presented is much more engaging and usable. It’s all about creating a setting of intimacy and safety where students can voice concerns, ask questions, and learn as many tips and tricks for success in school and their field as possible.”  Coordinator Shari Luck expanded on this, saying the course was made to “intentionally give all first term students a more personalized learning experience. The new instructional model is designed to allow all students to think reflectively and independently, and then participate in class discussions. There are about 15 students in each section of the class, with a faculty or staff instructor and an upper class peer mentor that facilitate the discussions. The smaller class size allows for everyone to get to know each other and have some important conversations in a non-threatening environment.”

This atmosphere provides students with the opportunity to get to know everyone in their class, including their instructor and peer mentor, and express opinions that a larger class size would drown out or prohibit. In the same way, Luck refers to the desired atmosphere as providing each student with a “sense of belonging.” This is demonstrated in the course through the class discussions which bring together a variety of ideas and perspectives from all the students in the class. The instructors also build relationships through varying activities throughout the term. For Halloween, students participated in a pumpkin carving contest where students formed small groups to carve pumpkins and a vote on a class representative pumpkin to compete against all the other FYE classes.  Additionally, all the classes were allowed to choose a class activity to participate in. This could include bowling, going to the movies, ice skating, and visiting the Flint Institute of Arts. One exceptionally generous class even chose to make fleece blankets for charity.

While there are many positive aspects about the new course, Julie Ulseth, one of the instructors for the course, highlighted her favorite part: she “loves the freedom to explore ideas and concepts, to be creative not only in the delivery of the course but also to challenge [herself] to make the material interesting.” Working with Armstrong, she continues, adds a strength to the course in that upperclassmen provide “an intriguing twist to the class material, too. She makes it real and relevant— because she has actually lived life at Kettering, and that is priceless.” Armstrong agrees in that her favorite aspect of the course was the peer mentoring. She says that this provides students a “support system that far extends past the end of the term.” While the course is coming along nicely this year, this is only “phase one”, according to Luck. Each year, and even as the class continues throughout the semester, instructors will update or modify the curriculum to best fit the needs of the students and provide the most beneficial course to introducing freshmen to life at Kettering.