Future Unclear for First-Year Service Programs

by James Huddleston
Staff

The adoption of an August term for first-years beginning in the 2012-2013 academic year may have negative consequences for Transylvania’s preorientation service programs.

The programs, which share the common theme of encouraging service and community engagement in college and beyond, include the First-year Urban Program (FUP), Rising Through Education (RiTE), Jump Start, Disciples Orientation Into Transy (DOIT) and Community Learning and Sustainability Students (CLASS). An average of five to 20 students participates in each of these programs every year.

August term, which would consist of only one class, is intended to help incoming students better adjust to life in college and the caliber of work expected of them at Transy. It would lengthen the academic calendar for first-years and would require the restructuring of programs like summer orientation and registration, new student orientation and the optional preorientation service programs.

Karen Anderson, Transy’s director of community service and civic engagement, spoke about the possible ramifications for preorientation programs combined with the implementation of August term.

“One concern is that first-year students may not be excited about preorientation service, starting August term, then not having a break until mid-October,” said Anderson. “Although it’s only one more week, we want to avoid contributing to burn out. We want our programs to support student success, helping them feel like they made the right decision to be at Transylvania, not regret that they will never have downtime.”

Anderson further explained that upper-class preorientation student leaders might be reluctant to participate because they will have to return to campus for the week of the program and then leave until the beginning of classes in September.

Preorientation programs held a week before August term may also conflict with summer jobs and internships.

Anderson commented on the opinion expressed by some students at a recent meeting in the Cowgill Center to discuss the effect of August term on preorientation programs.

“The students felt that if a leader knew the dates for the preorientation service program, they could include that when seeking summer internships and jobs,” Anderson said.

However, many employers would likely be unwilling to grant a weeklong sabbatical to college-aged employees, especially those who are only working three to four months of the year.

Current FUP student coordinator Jerry Ramey, a senior, emphasized the importance of preorientation programs and expressed regret at the prospect of them being either reduced in length or eliminated.

“(Preorientation programs) allow students to not focus on academic work right away but on transitioning to Lexington and the community,” Ramey said.

Ramey noted that the adoption of August term would likely lead to decreased participation in both FUP and preorientation programs in general.

“When you start (the semester) so early, it will probably hurt our numbers,” Ramey said.

Transy’s commitment to community organizations such as the Catholic Action Center, which provides meals and basic supplies to the poor and homeless populations in Lexington, would be undermined if these programs saw a drastic decrease in participation or were eliminated.

“The Catholic Action Center relies on FUP students to come in every year and help them set up,” said Ramey. “One of the workers there once told me, ‘Without you, we wouldn’t get the job done.’ That really illustrates the importance of preorientation programs at Transy.”

Anderson encouraged everyone with an opinion on this issue to join Mike Vetter, vice president and dean of students, and Michael Covert, associate dean of students, for Coffee with the Cabinet April 6 at 8:30 a.m. in Jazzman’s, where they will be discussing both orientation and August term.

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