Great Expectations 2013 Highlight
September 07, 2013
It’s been a little over two weeks since Great Expectations ended, and I find myself still thinking about this memorable experience. Great Expectations (or GE) is a no-cost pre-orientation program designed to help incoming students transition to college life. Great Expectations is part of Lewis & Clark’s comprehensive programs that address the first-year needs of specific communities on this campus: those who are one of the first in their families to attend college and those from populations traditionally underrepresented at the College, including Native American, Latino/a, Asian American, and African American students.
As the new Program Manager, helping plan Great Expectations was one of the first tasks assigned to me. Immediately, I was pumped about the opportunity to provide this pre-orientation retreat for first generation college students and students who are traditionally underrepresented at the College. I knew that the students who would be participating in GE were receiving an incredible opportunity to meet other students, build strong relationships with returning students, and gain access to resources, faculty, and staff before most of their peers even arrived to campus. I felt strongly about GE’s purpose and mission and understood the importance of providing this pre-orientation experience. So, throughout the summer, the GE planning committee worked hard to put together a two day program that we believed would help these students transition more easily to Lewis & Clark. The result of hours and hours of pre-planning finally came into fruition on August 25, 2013.
On August 25, 2013, 45 GE participants along with 15 GE mentors boarded a bus to Canby, OR. The GE mentors are all GE alumn and believe that this retreat has had a positive impact on their college experience. One mentor notes, “Great Expectations is definitely one of the more powerful, engaging activities I have participated in here at Lewis & Clark. It was nice to be a mentor this year and see the difference between where I was this time last year and where I am now. I met quite a few freshmen that are somewhat like me, yet so different–which is the best part. I feel that by having students participate at Great Expectations, they become more confident, excited and well-prepared for whatever comes their way.” - Guadalupe Triana (‘16). During GE, students learn about the many resources LC has to offer, the differences between high school and college, and other transitions they may experience. Students who attend the trip have the advantage of making friends before everyone arrives on campus for new student orientation. These connections last throughout their the first year and beyond. From a GE participant, “I thought Great Expectations was an engaging and interesting way to meet like-minded people at Lewis and Clark before the start of classes. I really enjoyed this because it gave me a jump start on my social life in college and made me more comfortable with the people on campus, not to mention all the resources they provide you with! I spoke to a professor who was a guest speaker at GE, and he answered all my lingering questions about my major, it was such a relief! Be prepared to take notes and have a lot of fun with new people.” Sully Pujol (‘17)
In addition to attending sessions on academic success, this retreat builds community, increases individual confidence, and fosters an appreciation for people with diverse backgrounds. The identified goals of GE since its origin in 2009 are the following: (1) connect early with LC students, faculty, and staff; (2) identify appropriate resources on campus; and (3) develop strategies and skills for college success. The retreat is structured conference-style where the participants attend different sessions that touches on one or more of these goals.
This year at GE, students had the opportunity to hear directly from Jerry Harp, Director of Academic Advising and Angelica Garcia, Assistant Dean of Academic Support and Student Support, and Mark Figueroa, Associate Provost for Institutional Research. The students also heard from faculty members on a panel about Explorations & Discovery which included Cecilia Benenati, Kim Cameron-Dominguez, Michael Mirabile, and Maureen Reed. During the faculty panel, the faculty shared advice on how to read and effectively use a syllabus, how to utilize professors’ office hours, and how to critically think, question, and write like a scholar. Students also had the opportunity to ask the faculty advice on how to be successful in their first year.
In addition to hearing from faculty, students learned strategies and skills needed for college success such as time management, knowing and understanding their learning styles, and writing skills. Each session emphasized skills and strategies the students could leverage while also linking the students to resources on campus related to building these skills. Students were introduced to various departments on campus that will provide to be useful resources for them in the future, including Student Support Services and Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement. Watzek Library also attended the retreat to talk about all of the resources the library has to offer. The retreat concluded with a resource tour in which the students toured the library, the writing center, the math skills center, and the physics/biology center.
All throughout GE, the students heard from current student experiences and then had the opportunity to hear from alumni. An alumni panel, consisting of alumns from the 1990s, early 2000s, and recent graduates, came to speak to the students about what it is like to be a student in the Lewis & Clark community. Many of the alumni panel members were past GE participants themselves and had valuable advice to share. Students had the opportunity to learn from the lived experiences of these alumni giving them a real perspectives about the barriers that exist at LC, and how to navigate these barriers to ultimately be successful.
In between sessions, students had the opportunity to team build and get to know each other, as well as connect with their peer mentor. This relationship is valuable for both the first year student and the mentor. One mentor commented, “As a mentor it was a great experience. I got to meet amazing individuals who I’m looking forward to keeping in contact with. One of the best moments of GE has to be open mic night on the last night. It really shows how talented everyone is. There were poets, singers and people who could just make you laugh a smile.” - Jonel Illiscupidez (‘15). There definitely was not a shortage of talent nor relationships to build. It was incredible to watch the instant bonds and connections that people made during GE that I know will carry on long after GE.
One of the most valuable activities done at GE was the opportunity to have the participants reflect on their experience. Students gave gratitude to their new peers. They also wrote a letter to themselves to remind their future self about the importance advice they received at GE. These letters were collected and will be mailed back to the students later on in the semester. Finally, the students were able to self reflect and write down some of their “take aways.” One student wrote, “I’m different and that’s okay. I shouldn’t fear speaking up. I hold tremendous power and influence.” Just knowing that a student left GE feeling empowered made all of the difference for me.
Many students expressed the ways in which GE has changed them…and they are not the only ones. I am changed because of this experience. Planning and facilitating GE has been one of the highlights of my first weeks here, and I still get excited when I see a GE participant on campus. I’ve continued to have conversations with many of the students who attended GE, and I have seen them walking around campus, attending events, and staying engaged in the community. For me, and many others, the purpose, mission, goals, and outcomes of this program is one of deep significance.