Dean Violanti, Dean Johnson-Ross, and dean Towle comprise the first year team. These women organize first year programs to make the transition to college life as smooth as possible for freshmen students.
These women begin meeting in the spring to begin planning for the upcoming year. Although they work together closely to coordinate programs, every woman has her own focus. Violanti offers support and guidance to fir st year students, and oversees the peer mentor program. Johnson-Ross selects the summer reading and oversees the first year seminars. While Towle organizes the august freshmen orientation.
The first program freshmen encounter is the august orientation. Towle organizes every aspect of these first few days from the activities to the entertainment. Violanti said these first days are hugely important because they help students connect to campus and to each other. However, orientation is only the beginning.
A unique freshmen program are the first year seminars. These classes differ from regular academic classes in several ways. The teachers of first year seminars serve as first year advisors to the students, and the peer mentors attend the seminars. According to Johnson-Ross they’re meant to help the students adjust to academic life at McDaniel.
These classes are designed to help students learn important skills such as how to study and how to write in a more sophisticated manner. Johnson-Ross said the flex hour in first year seminars are especially important because professors can use this time to teach students academic skills, or to introduce them to academic resources on campus.
Peer mentors are an important resource for freshmen students. In addition to attending first year seminars with freshmen, they offer guidance to them . Johnson-Ross described them as a liaison between the student and the college, while Towle describes peer mentors as “walking student handbooks. ”
According to Towle, peer mentors have five intensive training days where they learn about resources, the McDaniel Plan, and assisting in a classroom. These “handbooks” are trained to answer any questions freshmen students have.
However, peer mentors aren’t the only place to turn to if freshmen need guidance. Johnson-Ross said a cademic advisors are also a good person to turn to for academic guidance or for any questions. In addition, she suggested using the website or the internet to find answers. While Violanti recommended coming to her office at academic affairs. She said if academic affairs couldn’t answer any questions, they’d know who could answer them.
A final piece of advice Towle wanted freshmen to know is “the best things they can do is ask for help when they need it”, and to know that “everyone is so willing to help students be successful.”