First-Year Student Enrichment Program grows as more students apply

by Gigi Grigorian | 9/25/17 2:00am

This year, the First-Year Student Enrichment program saw a 22 percent increase in size, with 88 members of the Class of 2021 participating compared to the Class of 2020’s 72 participants, according to FYSEP director Jay Davis ’90. This number also reflects a 57 percent increase in class size compared to two years ago, when 56 members of the Class of 2019 participated in the program.

Since 2009, the First-Year Student Enrichment program has worked to help low-income and first-generation students prepare for their first year at Dartmouth with a pre-orientation program and events and academic check-ins throughout students’ first years.

During the pre-orientation program, faculty, staff and upperclassmen mentors guided the participating students in skills workshops focused on preparing for academics at Dartmouth. For example, the program taught students how to take advantage of the Academic Skills Center and to use office hours effectively.

Davis attributed this year’s increase to a greater number of students applying to the program. All low-income and first-generation freshmen are invited to apply and are then selected as participants based on their applications.

“I think more and more students identified the services of FYSEP as important to them in their transition,” Davis said.

Program participant Sabyne Pierre ’20 said that FYSEP would benefit from expanding. She has met several low-income, first-generation ’20s who could not attend FYSEP because of the limited slots available, she said.

“It would have been great to have everyone included,” she said.

With its growth since last year, FYSEP sought to address this concern.

Davis said that, when selecting students from the pool of applicants, he strove for a “sweet spot,” which he said they hit this year.

“We want to maximize our ability to meet the greatest number of students’ needs while also preserving the sense of intimacy and connection in the program,” Davis said.

About one in 15 ’21s are participating in FYSEP this year.

Vincent Chang ’21 noted that the program maintained its tight sense of community despite the larger number of students involved.

To accommodate the increased number of students, the program needed more upperclassmen to serve as mentors to the ’21s, Davis said. FYSEP recruited 32 ’18s and ’19s in total to mentor the 88 freshmen in the program this year, he said.

The program tried to have more small group discussions than in past years to counter its larger size, Davis explained. The smaller groups, often as small as three or four students, were especially important when addressing complicated or challenging topics, he added.

The program is also limited by the availability of rooms on campus that can accommodate large groups while facilitating discussion and conversation, Davis said.

“It feels like the current size is about what we can handle with our current staffing and resources as well as the current days available to us,” Davis said.

Davis does not attribute the increased number of applicants to FYSEP this year to more extensive outreach or advertisement for the program. Instead, he noted that attendance at informational events has been increasing in recent years.

In order to reach out to incoming freshmen, FYSEP hosted a luncheon at Dimensions this past April. At this meeting, the incoming first-years met FYSEP administrators and upperclassmen who had previously participated in the program, Amari Young ’21 said.

Young, who is participating in FYSEP this year, said she decided to apply to the program after attending this event. At the luncheon, Young identified with one upperclassman in particular because of their similar backgrounds and experiences, and knew from this interaction that she wanted to join the program.

Pablo Correa ’20 also cited the Dimensions FYSEP lunch, which he attended in 2016, as the reason he applied to the program. While interacting with other ’20s at the event, he said he realized the group included individuals that he ”would love to spend more time with.”

Davis said that since his undergraduate years at Dartmouth in the late ’80s, Dartmouth has “done a dramatically better job of both getting students here from underrepresented backgrounds and meeting their needs” through the establishment of programs like FYSEP.

“I think there’s an ethical responsibility on an institution, if it brings students in, to have services there to ensure the students have the opportunity to succeed,” Davis said.