FYE extension in the works: College considers more focused sophomore year experience

Posted by Jean-Ann Kubler

The Office of Residential Life is collaborating with the First Year Experience and representatives from Student Affairs to create a program that combines critical aspects of sophomore-year academic and social life to make the transition out of FYE more gradual.

The program, which is in its nascent stages and does not yet have a formal title, is slated to debut in fall 2013.

Motivation for creating a sophomore-centric program came from a common opinion that sophomores lack the type of institutionalized direction associated with other class years.

"For first-years, everything is new and exciting and they have FYE. Juniors are usually focused on going abroad, and seniors have graduation and careers to prepare for. Sophomores are often left thinking, ‘Well, what do I do?'" said Don Hastings, director of Residential Life and associate dean of student affairs.

Hastings is working closely with Associate Director of Residential Life Ann Marie Przywara, Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun, Director of the First Year Experience Beau Breslin, Associate Dean of the Faculty for Academic Advising Corey Freeman-Gallant and Frank Cabrera '11, a senior who is writing his thesis on sophomore-centric programing.

Very few details of the potential program have been planned. The residential component, however, is more concrete.

"The new slope-side apartments will be instrumental in combining the academic and social aspects of the sophomore year experience," Hastings said.

The slope-side apartments, part of the $42 million Scribner Village Replacement Project, are tentatively slated to be finished in fall 2012. The two new apartment buildings will each house 56 students, separated into five-person apartments.

The five occupancy apartments, according to Hastings, can serve as a residential setting for students who wish to continue their FYE studies.

"For example, if five students from an FYE seminar really enjoyed their topic and want to delve deeper, maybe they could apply for an apartment together, similar to the old system of themed housing," Hastings said.

Themed housing, which was phased out in 2005 when FYE was established, offered students the opportunity to apply for houses, suites and residence hall floors with specific themes. Wait and Wiecking Halls hosted honors floors, and houses in Scribner included gourmet cooking and multicultural themes.

Like the themed houses, FYE extension houses would likely be set up through an application process. Student applications would be reviewed by a committee before being approved for continued study and housing.

It has not yet been determined if students approved for continued FYE studies will be given preference in housing selection, or how class credits would be appropriated.

Some students do not feel the lack of direction during sophomore year is a problem. "I thought it was a good break. A lot of the application process for going abroad junior year happens when you're a sophomore, so it's good to have the free time," Katie Humphreys '12 said.

Current sophomores said a more structured year could help with selecting a major. "You're given a lot of freedom during sophomore year, but when it comes time to declare a major, the lack of structure becomes a problem," Dylan Lustrin '13 said.

Being forced to declare a major after a year without guidance makes the selection process complicated and stressful, Lustrin said.

The continued FYE studies would be completely optional for sophomores. If students are uninterested in continuing their seminar topics, or do not believe they need a more structured sophomore year, they will not be obligated to participate.

"It would be much like the Survivor Series programs we run for first-year students. We think they're a good idea, but nothing is mandatory," Hastings said.

Residential Life is seeking more ideas for the new program. Any suggestions can be e-mailed to Hastings (dhasting@skidmore.edu) or Przywara (aprzwar@skidmore.edu).

"There have only been two formal meetings, but there has been interest and a positive response so far. We're still working out all of the details," Hastings said.

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