Academic journal article Honors in Practice

Creating Community: Honors Welcome Week Programming

Academic journal article Honors in Practice

Creating Community: Honors Welcome Week Programming

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The Northeastern University Honors Program established its first-year Welcome Week initiative in 2006 as part of our movement toward enhancing the goals of an Honors Living Learning Community. The Welcome Week is characterized by a series of linked events that bring together various on-campus members of our honors community for the common goal of welcoming new students to campus. Members of that on-campus community include faculty, administrators, staff, and upper-class honors students. Welcome Week introduces new students to the opportunities and challenges of a university honors experience.

BACKGROUND

The Northeastern University Honors Program is roughly 20% larger than that of many institutions our size because we are a cooperative education university with a five-year undergraduate program. All of our 1,400 honors students are never on campus at the same time because of co-op and study-abroad opportunities. When a new director took over the program in fall 2004, we were poised for change. Realizing that with large numbers comes the opportunity to create a robust community, we looked towards other honors programs to see how they were building their honors communities on larger campuses. Part of that process involved inviting NCHC-recommended site visitors to our campus to make recommendations on a variety of issues including what we began to call "the first-year experience." We also looked at national campus trends and found several important initiatives that we adopted.

In addition, in the summer of 2006 our office moved from the basement of an old building to a brand new facility that included the Honors Program office (computer lab and lounge, small seminar room, reception area, and professional offices) as well as apartment-style housing for 224 first-year honors students. We continue to use our older first-year honors housing for 60-100 additional students. Our concern with moving into the new building was that our students would hide in their apartments without experiencing the camaraderie that many students build in those first few weeks by wandering the halls. We collaborated with the Department of Residence Life to make it possible for all of our first-year students to move onto campus a week early, and we focused our events around those early days; that was the official beginning of our commitment to a living-learning philosophy. If our change could be represented as a formula it would look like this:

   New director + New building + NCHC advice = Shake Up (aka Welcome
   Week)

Welcome Week highlights some of the major goals of the Honors Program including a commitment to an Honors Living Learning Community, recognition of the importance of interdisciplinary learning, and participation in civic engagement. All of these opportunities, and more, take place within the supportive environment that includes faculty, staff, and upper-class students.

PREPARING FOR WELCOME WEEK

The goal of Welcome Week is to have programming that threads through the first days on campus. Each day there is a group event and also time set aside for the students to settle into campus and the city of Boston. The schedule highlights include:

Wednesday Move-in day; evening social

Thursday Faculty panel to discuss the First-Year Reading selection; small faculty/staff-led panels to discuss the book; students join with their discussion leader for lunch

Friday Group team-building experience at a day-long ropes course retreat

Saturday Assistance in campus-wide move-in

Sunday Author visit and book signing reception

Monday Honors Induction Breakfast

Saturday (after first week of classes) Honors Outreach Project

The preparation for Welcome Week begins about ten months before the first-year students set foot on campus. The academic linchpin of Welcome Week is the First-Year Reading Project. …

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