Freshman unity focus of program

Cody Francis

First Year Experience changes aim to help new students feel at home

Freshmen Mike Sweigert and Taylor Bechtel play a game of pingpong in the Manchester and Fletcher lounge. Shaye A. Painter | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

One of the largest freshman classes in recent history coupled with the move from Small Group to Eastway Center has forced the First Year Experience program to operate over capacity, but the program has managed to become more organized despite these factors.

“The Eastway Center is a very centralized place, close to academic buildings, dining centers as well as other amenities that would be attractive to students, so it makes sense for the First Year Experience to be there,” said Amy Quillin, former associate director of Residence Services.

Some of the residence halls housed only 40 students. Quillin said the First Year Experience wants that same sense of community to transfer to Eastway Center.

As of the first week of the semester, there were 1,058 residents in Eastway Center. Because of the large number of residents, it is currently operating at nearly 105 percent capacity.

Michael Hopper, a freshman nursing major and a resident of Fletcher Hall, said he feels like it is a good size, but just small enough where students can still form a “tight-knit community.”

The setup of Eastway Center also allows First Year Experience programs such as the Faculty Associates program to be more centralized within the residence hall. The program allows two faculty members to have offices in Eastway Center so that students can go to them for advice or guidance.

“In the small group dorms, the faculty members were not concentrated in one certain place,” said Quillin. “Now, students will know a more permanent place to access that resource.”

The new home of the First Year Experience has received a positive response so far from the incoming freshmen.

“I like the way the community is set up,” said Hopper. “Everything is easy to find, and we are in walking distance of just about anything we might need.”

Danny Vallera, a freshman nursing major and a resident of Manchester Hall, said he likes the fact that he is not in “the middle of nowhere” in the small group residence halls. “Our dorms might not be the biggest or the best on campus, but they are right in the thick of campus life,” said Vallera. “I think I would feel secluded from the rest of campus if I lived in the old dorms.”

Another advantage for the incoming freshmen living in Eastway Center is the startup of a new office in the building called the Eastway Outreach Center. The outreach center will provide help to any student in academic advising and tutoring and will have programs such as financial aid and career services. It will operate from Eastway Center, giving the freshmen in the building easy access to the outreach center’s many resources.

“We want it to be a grassroots kind of thing,” said Quillin. “We want this to be a long-term resource and a long-term program that students can count on from year to year.”

With the amount of freshmen living in Eastway Center, senior manager Tom Bauer said the Eastway café has seen a seven percent increase in sales compared to the first week of classes last year.

“It used to take a little while for the freshmen to find us, and now they live here,” said Bauer. “With the return of the other students, it makes for a larger crowd.”

Contact room and board reporter Cody Francis at [email protected].