First Year Connections

Freshman Orientation Gets a Revamp

If you started out as a freshman at NJIT before this year, you must remember having to go
through a little program called Connections Miniversity, a two-day experience that helped introduce
incoming freshmen to NJIT life. This school year’s freshmen, however, received a taste of something a
little different—First Year Connections, or as it is more commonly known, FYC. With this new program
came several changes to the original Connections Miniversity format. Perhaps the most significant
change was how FYC was split up into two parts, aptly named FYC 1.0 and FYC 2.0, as opposed to the
single 2-day Connections Miniversity of yore. Assistant Director for First Year Students, Leo Pedraza, said
of this change, “We wanted [the freshmen] to have the initial identification with NJIT early in the
summer, and then once they feel committed to going to college here, we wanted them to come back and
feel settled and adjusted.”

A one-day program, FYC 1.0, was held during the first week of June. In this portion of the
orientation, students were able to, among other things, talk to their academic advisors, understand
course placement, and familiarize themselves with commuter life and residential life. Students that were
eager to immerse themselves in the NJIT environment further were given an opportunity to stay
overnight in one of the residence halls. FYC 2.0, on the other hand, spanned a few days, occurring right
before the first day of classes. This latter half focused more on community building, allowing students to
meet their peers in Freshman Seminar, to understand issues with attending college, and to be involved in
community service projects. In addition, students met with Public Safety, participated in Active Shooter
training, and learned about sexual violence prevention. Crucial to both parts were the peer leaders—
upperclassmen who headed groups of freshmen—who served as guides and role models to the students
throughout FYC. In total, there were 23 peer leaders (three of whom served as lead coordinators who
helped organize the program itself) who helped about 1,000 incoming freshmen.
FYC also featured a great deal of technology to help support and manage NJIT’s freshman
orientation. The implementation of Eventbrite, an online registration tool, allowed for a simple process
for students and staff. This tool also came with an app that gave peer leaders the power to easily check
in students with their smart phones. In addition, a video that featured freshmen detailing their
experiences from FYC was released. A Facebook group has also been established to create an avenue for
students to ask questions from the department. This group produced some results that came as a bit of a
surprise to Pedraza. “At first, [the Facebook group] used to be a two-way communication [between
students and administrators], but now it’s turned to a community, because they’re starting to answer
each other’s questions.” One plan to utilize technology for the upcoming semester is the distribution of
Freshman Seminar lesson plans to students using Prezi, a web-based tool for presenting information in
visually appealing ways.

When asked about her favorite part of FYC, freshman Briana Mancenido, a biology major,
replied, “I liked First Year Connections 1.0, because I slept overnight. We got to go in the game room; we
got to hang out with the upperclassmen; we got to play volleyball with them. We just got to see what it
was like living on campus for a day; we got to see what it was like sharing a room with someone.”
Freshman Robert Cuber, a math major, placed importance on meeting his academic advisor: “We got to
meet with the advisors; that was really cool.”

Behind the inception of FYC were several student-centered goals: to have students commit to
NJIT early on, to have them transition well from high school to college, and to give them a chance to
meet other students. Pedraza especially noted the importance of student retention and attributed it to a
student’s sense of knowing other people on campus. On whether he felt the program met the
department’s goals and expectations, Pedraza said, “Absolutely!”As for next year, Pedraza is planning to get feedback from the freshmen through surveys, in order to get information on what can be improved. He wants to focus on the different issues that NJIT students experience in their first year and how to make relevant information regarding those issues accessible in the future.

“We can only improve on this last one. It was really good, but we could be better.”

Jeremy Buhain

About Guest 151 Articles
This article was written by an individual or organization that is not part of The Vector. The name of the individual/organization that wrote this article is at the bottom of the article.

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