Message from the Dean - April 2011
Even the most enthusiastic and well-prepared students can find the transition from high school to college challenging. It may be stressful for students to manage academic work, related deadlines and study time; to have to determine or consider changes to a course of study; to deal with the multitude of opportunities newly available; and to struggle to find the proper balance between academics and social life. The student in such a situation may yearn for a simpler and better understood pattern of life, resulting in homesickness. Indeed, the student may find that the first six weeks of the semester are crucial to making a successful transition, as much of the research on this topic indicates.
In the Honors College we think this transition is helped by looking at two issues: the adjustment to a new community and support for managing a new academic life. The College's residential learning community helps to accomplish both goals, community building as well as guidance. Our goal is to involve students in an engaging web of academic and co-curricular activities quickly, allowing them to become a part of a thriving residential learning community.
So how do we address this challenge? We house the students together at University Heights North, which is designed to encourage student interaction in its public spaces and study lounges. The students living together share the same goals for academic achievement and are similarly talented. They are from diverse majors and backgrounds so interesting conversations are likely to take place. An important stimulus for conversation is the common first-year course held in a seminar room in University Heights North. Each student is enrolled in one of eight sections of the first year seminar. The students from all of the sections come together each Thursday evening for a plenary session to hear a lecture on and engage in a discussion about an issue relevant to the seminar. Thus the Honors College first-year students immediately have something to talk about with their roommates and others they live with. In addition, a large array of other curricular and co-curricular activities helps to bind together the students as a group in the first six weeks and beyond. The residential learning community helps students as they venture out into the rest of the University.
A successful transition to college also requires effective guidance on how to maneuver on new terrain. Honors College students find multiple avenues for learning about their new opportunities. They are independent but not alone. Apart from the important advising in their majors, guidance also occurs in interactions with their professors in the small seminars the students take and in the Honors College administrative offices, which are located in the same building as the residence halls. Students have access to nine resident advisors (RA's) and two resident faculty advisors. They take part in a peer mentoring program, in which first-year students are matched up with upper-class students based on common interests. They can also take advantage of specialized advising for seekers of nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships (such as the Truman, Fulbright, Goldwater and Udall awards) and of faculty-mentored undergraduate research.
No single approach to as complex a matter as the transition to college can successfully address all of the issues that are raised by it. Nonetheless, in our experience a focus on community building paired with effective guidance gives students a confident start to a thriving collegiate career.
Last modified April 04 2011 01:35 PM