The First-Year Experience program was implemented at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point this year to assist new students in their transition to college life. Director of the program, Susan Rufledt, explains that the goal of the program is to get new students to feel a sense of belonging by encouraging them to belong, engage, and commit.
According to the program’s website on the UWSP homepage, “The First-Year Experience provides opportunities and activities to foster self-discovery and responsibility, encourage diverse University connections and promote the development of personal educational goals for new students as they transition to our community.”
The program will ultimately contribute to “greater student success and retention,” Rufledt said.
She said the experience allows students to take control of their success and helps them to become more comfortable with the university so they want to return for their sophomore year.
“The First-Year Experience program collaborates with different departments, programs, and advisors to provide experiences that are helpful for students in their first year,” Rufledt said.
This year, the program teamed up with programs such as Residential Living and Centertainment to provide opportunities and purposeful activities to help students reach the three core values: belong, engage, and commit.
Orientation was the first stepping-stone for new students. There, they were connected to a “peer mentor” who introduced the students to the campus and informed them of upcoming events and crucial information,” Rufledt said.
The peer mentor also adds their group of students to a Facebook page, allowing everyone in the group to connect with their peers even before school starts.
Welcome Week is the second stage for new students. Here, they get the chance to meet the people of their Facebook group face-to-face and bond in person. They attend events such as a comedian, Screen on the Green, and Labor of Love.
“These activities give students the opportunity to make mistakes, get lost and then get found again,” Rufledt said.
The last stage of the program is called MAP-Works. This stage allows the peer mentors and other faculty and staff members to check in with the new students. Surveys will be taken the third week of class, as well as two other times through out the semester. These surveys will ask questions to make sure things are going well for the students, and if there is an indication of stress, the student can reach out and will be provided with help.
Orientation and Welcome-Week are mandatory, but other programs beneficial to new students learning about UWSP are voluntary. These partner programs, such as ARC for Success and First Year Seminar classes, are listed on the program’s website.
As new students get more familiar with the campus, activities offered, and groups to attend, they can thank this program for making them feel more comfortable in college.