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A program evolves to meet changing needs

Members of the Class of 2016, warming up to Lehigh at the First-Year Student Rally, will begin their evoLUtion seminars on Monday, Sept. 10.

For seven years, Lehigh’s evoLUtion seminar has provided resources to help first-year students adapt to a new living and learning environment.

Now, the post-orientation experience has been expanded to meet the changing needs of the Sesquicentennial Class of 2016.

Allison K. Ragon, assistant dean of students for the first-year experience, says the expansion is integral to student development.

“The evoLUtion seminar is now an eight-week experience, and we’ve shifted its goals,” says Ragon. “In the past, the seminar focused on three core competency areas, but now we’re focusing on skill sets we think students need in order to be successful throughout their Lehigh career, both in their academic and social lives.”

Last spring, the Office of First-Year Experience (OFYE) invited small groups of faculty and staff who had been involved in the seminar to help develop the new evoLUtion curriculum. They looked for ways to address new goals: providing an opportunity to learn more about diversity at Lehigh, in Bethlehem and around the world; helping students connect with resources; exposing students to the importance of developing goals, and more.

All first-year students will begin their seminars Sept. 10. Each group will be facilitated by a faculty or staff member, with help from an upper-class orientation leader. OFYE is offering a stipend for instructors.

“I am constantly impressed with the level of engagement of our staff and faculty in helping first-year students’ transition to college,” said Ragon. “Our goal is to help students gain the skills and be aware of the resources that will aid in their success.”

Team-building activities

The students will also participate in a ropes course or other team-building activity and in other social activities throughout the seminar’s duration. At the end of the eight weeks, participants will present group projects and share their experiences. Selected presentations will be shared at a symposium open to the Lehigh community on Friday, Nov. 2.

In addition to the changes in the evoLUtion seminar, Ragon and her staff are providing other opportunities to ease the transition for new students.

The new series of Lehigh After Dark programming, made possible by the office of student activities, will support student-generated social events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The inaugural event, held in August at SteelStacks, included live music, food, trivia, dancing, games and a showing of the movie “The Hunger Games.”

Camp Hawk, a two-day retreat to be held September 21-23 in the Pocono Mountains, will allow new students to work with upper-class students on leadership skills. Now in its second year, Camp Hawk will give students who did not attend a Prelusion program or join a sports team the chance to connect with peers and forge new friendships.

OFYE is also planning spring 2013 Prelusion programs to coincide with sorority recruitment, for students who may not be interested in joining a Greek chapter. Like Camp Hawk, it will help students get acquainted in a relaxed environment before spring semester begins.

 
Photograph by John E. Harry

Story by Karl Brisseaux

Posted on Thursday, September 06, 2012

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