New FYC program aims to acclimate freshmen to St. Louis

| Contributing Reporter

Students explore downtown as part of St. Louis by the Dozen. St. Louis by the Dozen is a new program run by the First Year Center that takes twelve person groups of freshmen off campus to explore local landmarks.Courtesy of Flickr

Students explore downtown as part of St. Louis by the Dozen. St. Louis by the Dozen is a new program run by the First Year Center that takes twelve person groups of freshmen off campus to explore local landmarks.

St. Louis by the Dozen, a new program launched by the First Year Center this fall, aims to integrate Washington University freshmen into the greater St. Louis community.

As part of the program, faculty members take groups of 12 freshmen to various attractions and public events around the city to familiarize the students with local culture and traditions.

The program is an attempt to help new students transition into college life in St. Louis and build positive student-faculty relationships early in the year, said Kirsten Smith, administrative coordinator for the First Year Center.

Multiple events have been held so far this year: Students went to Busch Stadium for a Cardinals baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds with Professor Henry Schvey, visited the Cahokia Mounds with Professor John Kelly, biked along Grant’s Trail with Professor Mitch Sommers and explored downtown St. Louis with Professor Tim Bono.

Bono noted that the activities are flexible and tailored to students’ interests.

“The events are very much student-dependent,” he said.

While the new opportunities do not allow as many students to be involved as those in the past, Smith said the 12-student limit is likely to remain. She said the center hopes the smaller student groups will allow freshmen to make closer bonds with their professors and other students in a less intimidating environment. She added that smaller groups make students more likely to attend the events after signing up.

Coordinators of the First Year Center said they based the program on other universities’ off-campus programs, such as the one at Regis University that holds similar events every month.

General faculty and student reactions to the program have been enthusiastic so far, said junior Paul Roth, community relations chair for the First Year Center Executive Board. Roth helped organize the program with Danielle Bristow, the director of First Year Programs.

Roth said the program was something he would have wanted as a freshman, as it allows new students to learn more about St. Louis through physical experience while helping them find a balance between work and fun during the transition to college.

Roth said the center hopes the number of trips will increase to compensate for the small size of the groups.

Freshman Tejas Shekhar had lunch with Professor Jay Turner in conjunction with the program.

“He told us about his work, about chemical engineering and asked us about our interests…I think it was good to get to know a professor better. I had a good experience,” Shekhar said.

Many upperclassmen wish that the First Year Center had sponsored the program when they were freshmen.

“I think it would be an interesting experience. It would have added to the college experience. Now I’m sad I was never able to experience that,” junior Megan Yu said.

Junior Rina Matsumoto says that the program would have helped her to explore St. Louis beyond the boundaries of the University.

“As freshmen, we can’t get off campus—we don’t know where to go and we don’t have transportation. If there was an opportunity like that, I would have taken advantage of it,” she said.

St. Louis by the Dozen events are open to all freshmen and are free of charge. Plans for future events include an eagle-watching trip at the Mississippi River.