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Gateway to Holy Cross

By Elizabeth Walker

GatewaysHoly Cross will welcome 770 first-year students into the class of 2002 this fall. About 600 of those students, or more than 75 percent of the class, have opted not to participate in the First-Year Program (FYP). So what program is in place to help them ease through the transition from home and high school to campus and college? 

A new one, says Jacqueline Dansler Peterson, vice president for Student Affairs. Dean Peterson knows what it means to be new to campus. She is just completing her first year at Holy Cross. 

"Traditionally the first-year students come to campus in August for an orientation as the school year begins," she said. "This year we're implementing a new three-phase program for all first-year students. It is our first attempt at having something coordinated for all first-year students. It does not have the same intensity as the First-Year Program, nor does it have the FYP's rigorous academic component, but it is an attempt to provide a transitional experience for all first-year students who come to Holy Cross. The research and the literature tell us that there is a strong correlation between a student's first-year experience and his or her persistence and success in college." 

"Summer Gateways" is the first phase of the new program. Rather than wait until August to offer new students an orientation experience, Student Affairs invited their parents and them to one of three day-and-a-half sessions offered in June. The smaller groups were intended to allow for a more personalized introduction to the Holy Cross experience. Incoming students who visited the campus in June were afforded opportunities to meet with faculty and advisers, and to meet their classmates. Peterson sees this as a valuable opportunity for new students to make connections that they can keep up during the summer. 

"When we welcome them back in August, they already will have had a chance to meet people and feel connected," she said. "At that time, we will discuss a variety of transition issues at interactive sessions that will include more than just the new students. We want to get to the point where all students get some sort of first-year program to help with bonding, leadership development and the transition. 

"The First-Year Program is a perfect model of what can be done on a broader scale in higher education in general. We'll be much more involved in the program in the coming year, offering a yearlong class on leadership and developing community for the program's sophomore mentors and working with faculty. I would like to see a similar program evolve for all students - one that integrates the curricular with the co-curricular to create a seamless integration of what happens in class with what happens outside."

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