Orientation is an experience typically reserved for freshmen, but an increasing number of upperclassman Houses are welcoming back sophomores early for their own version of the transition process.
Capitalizing on the success of an orientation for sophomores that Mather House piloted last year, Leverett, Cabot, and Pforzheimer Houses joined Mather last month to welcome members of the Class of 2019 back to campus early for a round of activities intended to ease the transition into House life.
While the various sophomore orientations were limited in length, lasting between just one to two days, House Faculty Deans said they hoped the new programming would give students a chance to get better acquainted with their House and fellow sophomores before classes got underway.
Sophomores in Leverett House returned a day earlier than the official College move-in date and were greeted by a reception at the Faculty Deans’ residence, followed by a dinner. The day also included group discussions, advising activities, and a scavenger hunt to orient them to the House.
Leverett co-Faculty Dean Howard Georgi ’67 said the event had “many successes.”
“Most of the sophomores know how terrific our special dinners are, they know our tutors and their classmates better,” Georgi wrote in an email. “Many of them made a real effort to explore the House.”
Stephanie R. Khurana, co-Faculty Dean of Cabot House, said Cabot had previously held events to welcome sophomores, but this year instituted a more structured program after receiving suggestions from students last year.
“They wanted an opportunity to get more grounded in adjusting to house life, Quad life, making choices on classes and extracurriculars, as well as an opportunity to expand their friend groups,” Khurana wrote in an email.
In Mather, House administrators built off of last year’s program by instituting an “advising circle” that paired sophomores with older students to discuss their similar academic interests. The older students were part of a new program of House-level advising peers that was also instituted in Leverett.
Stephen J. Dayneka ’19, a Mather resident, said he found the peer advising helpful for his own academic planning.
“I was able to talk to them, kind of figure out what classes I wanted to take, and hear what interests and experiences they already had, and I was able to make some decisions around my actual concentration, which was big, especially around the start of sophomore year,” Dayneka said.
Thomas Damiano ’19, another Mather resident, also praised the advising events during the orientation as helpful in the absence of the extensive academic advising students receive when they first enter the College.
The idea for sophomore orientations as a means of transitioning second-year into their new House for the next several years dates back to a working group convened by Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana in 2014 to discuss the freshman to sophomore transition, according to Gene A. Corbin, chair of that working group and assistant dean of the college for public service.
“Nationwide, sophomore year can feel like a time of anxiety. It’s a time of having to start making difficult decisions. We wanted to make sure students feel a sense of a welcoming inclusive community in which to make these difficult decisions,” Corbin said.
While the orientations received positive reviews, their future and potential further expansion remains uncertain. The orientation in Leverett was an “expensive” endeavor, Georgi said, but added the House would consider repeating it next year.
“If Dean [Rakesh] Khurana can find the resources to do it again next year, I think we will be very pleased to take part,” Georgi wrote. “Of course, there are a few things we would do slightly differently, and we would ask for ideas from this year’s sophomores and the Leverett Advising Peers, but I don’t think we would make huge changes.”
—Staff writer Graham W. Bishai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.
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