More than 1,000 Spiders swarmed onto campus early this school year, and more than 100 of them were first- and second-year students eager to get an early start on their college careers through the university's Roadmap to Success program.
The program, which started last fall, seeks to teach students how to get more out of their college experiences, both academically and socially. It offers two different paths: The first is aimed at addressing concerns of first-year students, and the other is geared toward returning sophomores.
The goal of the program for first-year students is mainly to help assimilate them to campus life at Richmond and give them a preview of the school's academic environment, an option that many students took up this year.
First-year students who enrolled in the program moved onto campus on Aug 16., three days before the regular orientation, to get an early start on campus. Sophomores didn't move in until Aug. 20, and focused on programs aimed to help with choosing a major and exploring career options.
Steve Bisese, vice president for student development, said the number of applications for the program had increased. Last year, the program coordinators received more than 100 applications for 50 spots. This year, they increased the capacity of the program to 100 students, and ended up deciding to accept around 170 because of enhanced interest.
"I decided to do the Roadmap program because I wanted to move in earlier than everyone else, so I could have extra time to get better adjusted on campus," freshman participant Blanca Flores said.
After move-in, first-years began a full schedule of activities such as picnics, classes and lectures, the latter of which were chosen by the student based on his or her own interests.
"It's a great chance for students to find a core group of friends based on common interests, which the lectures provide," said Andy Gurka, coordinator of the living and learning program.
The program runs parallel to other programs — such as Pre-Orientation for American students of color and International Pre-Orientation — which share Roadmap's goal of enhancing the collegiate experience for participants.
Although the programs were separate, administrative coordinator Kay Macdonald said they had planned several events to overlap in an attempt to promote mingling between the separate orientation groups.
"We are looking for ways to unify the three pre-orientation programs even more in the future," Macdonald said.
The student-elected classes taken during pre-orientation are followed up with several sessions throughout the semester, starting in late September, and occurring about once a month.
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Evaluations of the program from student participants during the past two years have been almost perfect, Bisese said. Many first-year students agreed that the program did an excellent job of giving them a head start on campus life, and they enjoyed the classes offered.
"I liked the course that I took on evolution, based off of the book called 'Guns, Germs and Steel,'" Flores said. "It was interesting, and gave me a feel for what some of my course classes might be like."
Some thought that while the program was beneficial, the full schedule was overwhelming.
"The only thing I would change about the program is that it felt a little bit too scheduled," sophomore Robin Hawbaker said. "Every second of our day was basically mapped out for us, and while I know they have to be held accountable for us while we are at school earlier than everyone else, a little bit more freedom would have been nice."
The project coordinators said they had hoped the program's overall popularity and success would mean a definite return next year, along with a significant increase in size.
"I am most proud of this program because it is successful in having academics and student development collaborate," Bisese said. "We are a residential campus and what happens in and out of the classroom is important. This program helps bridge those two areas."
Contact staff writer Maggie Finucane at firstname.lastname@example.org
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