Starting next fall, incoming freshmen will be able to participate in a new program created by Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Academic Affairs Committee member Sam Ebb ’13 called “Cardinal Connect: First Year Student Social Connection Program.” The program is intended to serve as a social and extracurricular resource for incoming freshmen who wish to seek the advice of an upperclassman. The WSA and the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) worked together to create the new program.
Over the summer, incoming freshmen will receive mail at home containing information about the program and an application. Ebb and Associate Director of SALD Elisa Del Valle will sort through the applications and pair the new University students with participating upperclassmen who have similar extracurricular and social interests. Upperclassmen can sign up to meet with one to three freshmen. Ebb explained that each upperclassman and freshman group will be required to meet at least once a month in an informal setting.
“The idea is really to break down some of the barriers about getting involved with different things on campus,” Ebb said. “First-year students have their peer advisors, their academic advisors, and things for academic issues, but there’s nothing really in place to give them help to find the resources they need for any of their extracurricular interests.”
Ebb sent out an email on April 26 to students who are eligible for participation next year, including the University’s classes of 2013 and 2014. The email included a link to the form that current students must fill out in order to participate, due by May 20. Ebb explained that, as of right now, 30 upperclassmen have signed up, which opens up about 55 spots for incoming freshmen. Ultimately, Ebb said his goal is to have 150 spots available.
Ebb also explained that there are long-term benefits to creating a relationship between students with similar interests.
“I think that [Cardinal Connect] can provide some really interesting networking opportunities with people who have the same interests and [who] are getting started in the field,” he said.
Victoria McGee ’15 stated that she became friends with upperclassmen during a visit before she was a student at the University, and found that it was helpful to gain advice from current students.
“I think Cardinal Connect sounds like a useful tool where upperclassmen could give you different resources that you might not get during Orientation,” McGee said. “You get the real truth about campus via upperclassmen.”
Melody Oliphant ’13 hopes the program will be a success, but expressed concern that the relationships formed would not necessarily be sincere.
“The program seems to be a great initiative on behalf of the WSA, but I wonder if it will create artificial connections simply based on an age discrepancy,” Oliphant said. “The program seems contingent upon the genuine engagement of the upperclassmen.”
Ebb said that, before the close of this spring semester, he plans to make students as aware of Cardinal Connect as possible by handing out forms at Usdan and creating a post on Wesleying.
“I’m a little nervous, but I’m excited,” Ebb said. “I think it’ll work out.”