Starting classes, meeting peers, and exploring a new geographical area all at once may seem intimidating for many first-year students making the transition to college and campus life. But, it’s not like that for incoming first-year students at Rensselaer, according to staffers in the Office of the First-Year Experience. This year, more than 1,700 students—representing the largest incoming class in the Institute’s history—have joined the Rensselaer campus community.
Prior to the start of classes, Rensselaer officially welcomed members of the Class of 2020 and introduced them to the local community through a weeklong series of events known as “Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond” (NRB), the official continuation of the orientation program. Created under The Rensselaer Plan in 2001, NRB is usually organized around three general themes: adventure/team building; cultural/historical; and community service opportunities—all designed to help students get to know one another.
“When students arrive on campus, and especially in a new environment, it can be intimidating,” said Janelle Fayette, dean of the Office of the First-Year Experience. “As a new student, you’re thinking about moving into your residence hall, meeting your roommates, wondering what your first day of class will be like, and so much more. In addition, for the majority of our students, this may be the first time that they are living away from home, especially if it’s a great distance, so finding a way to familiarize our new members of the Rensselaer community with not only the campus, but also the city of Troy and surrounding areas, is an ideal way to lessen student stress.”
NRB helps students forge new lasting friendships and create memories that will sustain them through four or five years of academically challenging coursework. The goals of the program are to build affinity groups that bring students with similar interests together, as well as helping students create strong, stable social communities inside and outside of the residence halls and classrooms. The ‘Beyond’ component of NRB represents the continued support given well into the year.”—Janelle Fayette
The new class of over 1,700 students took part in more than 80 activities organized by Rensselaer staff, departments, and student clubs. The NRB program is supported by 520 students, alumni and alumnae, faculty, and staff volunteers.
Some highlights of the week included overnight trips to the Adirondacks and the Berkshires, volunteer opportunities with local organizations such as Joseph’s House and Troy YWCA, supporting housing construction projects with Rensselaer County Habitat for Humanity, working with residents and current students to continue Hurricane Irene recovery and restoration efforts in Schoharie County, building an electric vehicle or a hybrid go-kart, creating a giant Rube Goldberg machine, performing contemporary a cappella music or taking part in traditional, concert band, wind, or jazz ensembles, learning a variety of modern forms of ballroom and Latin dances, discovering how to build basic radio equipment, getting hands-on experience in emergency services, and more!
Signature campus and community-themed activities included the annual greeting at the 8th Street Approach, at which President Shirley Ann Jackson greeted and shook hands with each member of the class. This 15-year-old tradition was started by President Jackson to personally welcome the new students to Rensselaer and to Troy. After the handshake, students made their way downtown for the annual Welcome Festival, a free celebration featuring live entertainment, outdoor activities, arts, and crafts. Immediately after, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy live music and entertainment, a scavenger hunt, games, prizes, and more as part of Troy Night Out.
The week’s activities culminated with the First-Year Convocation, held in the East Campus Athletic Village Arena. Members of the Class of 2020, President Jackson, and other members of the Rensselaer community participated in the event. The ceremony, hosted by the Office of University Events, featured guest speaker Eric Ledet, associate professor and laboratory director of the Musculoskeletal Mechanics Laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The ceremony also included a video compilation of the week’s activities.
“We want our students’ transition to college life to go as seamlessly as possible,” Fayette said. “NRB helps students forge new lasting friendships and create memories that will sustain them through four or five years of academically challenging coursework. The goals of the program are to build affinity groups that bring students with similar interests together, as well as helping students create strong, stable social communities inside and outside of the residence halls and classrooms. The ‘Beyond’ component of NRB represents the continued support given well into the year.”