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FYE students

Above, this year’s new students participate in the FYE opening event that allows them to bond and make connections with other freshmen. Below, from left, peer advisors Mykaela Bell ’20, Steven Stengel ’18, and Cedar Robideaux ’18.

First Year Experience Program Immerses Freshmen in Academic, Social Life


FYE peer advisorsWhen MCLA students arrive on campus to begin their college careers, they find an expansive support system through the College’s First Year Experience (FYE) program.

In addition to guidance from faculty and staff, new students receive direct support from peer advisors – experienced MCLA students who not only mentor and attend a first-year seminar with the 12 to 20 freshman assigned to them based on mutual interests – they also socialize together. This may include attending campus events and visits to MASS MoCA, yoga sessions, craft nights or a movie, as well as study and advising sessions, and mental wellness and stress relief.

Psychology majors Shea Callahan ’21, Heather Moran ’21, and Paige Wandrei ’21 are among the new students who attend Dr. Deborah Foss’s “Intro to Psychology” class, along with peer advisor Sarah Pudney ’18. Like the three freshman, Pudney was in Foss’s FYE class when she was new to MCLA.

“This program has shown us how a first year student can benefit from curriculum that creates connections from the moment they step onto campus,” Pudney said. “I cannot think of a better way to start off your first year at college!”

According to Foss, the experience is rewarding. “Working with students in their first year of college reflects one of my beliefs at the MCLA experience - making ‘Connections that Matter,’” she said. “In FYE, we pay attention to the whole student, not just teaching specific discipline content. It’s the start of a transformative process that contributes to our students’ growth.”

In addition to getting to know other students, Wandrei said it helps to know that others are in the same boat as they navigate their first semester on campus. Moran added, “Without the FYE program, I would definitely be more confused on where to start anything, especially with registering for classes and finding my way around campus.”

Callahan agreed: “The FYE program has been a big help in my adjustment. It has a balance of being a support system – where we discuss our highs and lows of the week, questions or concerns – and it also serves as a space where we learn about how to manage our first year of college.”

FYE Academic Coordinator Dr. Amber Engelson, assistant professor of English/Communications, said the College's first-year experience program is designed to help students become active members of MCLA's vibrant campus community – both academically and socially.

“In their FYE academic courses, students are introduced to college-level academic inquiry and the learning strategies they’ll need to succeed as students. In their FYE seminars, they are introduced to the many valuable social and cultural resources MCLA offers,” Engelson said. 

Assistant Dean of Student Development and Engagement Celia Norcross explained that, in her FYE partnership with Academic Affairs, peer advisors directly support the program with an in-classroom seminar designed with a 14-week series of discussion topics that they co-present with a facilitator.

“Together each week, they students discuss topics that were researched and selected based on college student development theory and transition patterns of a first year, first semester student,” Norcross said. “These conversations are integral to the ways students engage in college life and assist in creating a path toward successful habits.”

According to Associate Dean of Students Theresa O’Bryant ’86, an FYE facilitator, the biggest advantage of the program is the opportunity first-year students have to share the experience with a cohort of students. “They are experiencing the same class. Sometimes, it’s even the introductory course for their major.”

O’Bryant continued, “Because of the seminar experience, and because of how engaging the faculty members are positioned to be, our FYE students know that there are important things that are part of the curriculum and part of the learning to help them transition to college.

“Additionally, they develop deeper relationships with the faculty member and facilitator who are part of their FYE. They come out of it knowing that they have extra ‘go-tos’ on campus if they need something. They know they can ask me to help them with anything. It’s really a truly immersive experience.”