How to Build a Community in Atlanta
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By Susan Finch
Atlanta’s wealth of higher institutions attracts an eclectic mix of students from all walks of life, interests and backgrounds. With thousands of students enrolled in a single college or university, navigating the journey can feel overwhelming. That’s why Atlanta’s local universities and colleges offer programs, initiatives and opportunities designed with freshmen in mind.
Life University’s orientation program welcomes rising freshmen with a comprehensive look at the campus and areas of study. A university advisor is assigned to individual Life students during the orientation program to maximize their potential during their college career. Incoming students are also encouraged to join Engage, an online portal connecting students to campus calendars, organizations and opportunities for social and academic enrichment.
Life University is focused on student success and says that supporting data shows that students who live on campus benefit from all the resources available. In an effort to bolster their success, first-year students are required to reside in University Housing for one academic year. In return, students develop a greater sense of belonging and more reliable connections to students, faculty and staff.
Agnes Scott knows that college can be a difficult transition for many and prioritizes introducing students to the community before their college career kicks off. The entire campus, which is located in Decatur, also works together on move-in day to help students get their items into their residence halls. New students take part in Orientation and Legacy, a two-part immersive leadership experience for incoming students. Activities during these two periods include a trip to the Center for Civil and Human Rights, a community fair that helps students get to know community spots in both Decatur and Atlanta and optional activities such as Braves games, tubing down the Chattahoochee River and more.
“This is a huge transition time in your life, so don’t be afraid to use the support available to you,” says Faith Rashidi-Yazd, an Admission Experience Fellow. “There may be many different emotions that come up during this process, but there are others who are going through or have gone through the same experience. Be sure to reach out to others and ask for help if you need it!”
The University of Georgia (UGA) kicks off summer with a Freshman College Summer Experience to help bridge a successful transition from high school to college. Students enroll in two credit-bearing courses that include an academic discipline-based course and a service-learning course. At their completion, students also fulfill the University’s experiential learning requirement for most majors.
During the Freshman College Summer Experience, students live in Russell Hall with their peers. The immersive, intimate experience allows students to get to know the campus and the city of Athens, as well as receive guidance from the faculty, graduate students and staff for the year ahead.
Morehouse’s First Year Experience focuses on helping students succeed academically and personally during their first year. The required course, which is offered as a collaboration between the Division of Student Development and the Office of Academic Affairs, emphasizes the idea that students assume personal responsibility for their own learning and development. Through a variety of carefully chosen course topics, students learn more about the resources and tools available to them at Morehouse and set clear expectations for their college journey.
Morehouse’s First Year Experience also focuses on building integrity and making positive contributions inside and outside of the classroom. Keeping the legacy of Brotherhood alive, the program encourages the idea of Brotherhood by fostering unique friendships based upon mutual respect and love for the Morehouse Community.
Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) First-Year Convocation is an annual tradition for incoming students. The graduation-style ceremony features faculty dressed in caps and gowns with the University President and top administrators welcoming new students and discussing the importance of a college education. In addition to this event, freshmen enjoy access to first-year seminar courses, which are designed to help students transition seamlessly into higher education. Seminar classes are limited to 25 students to allow students to get to know each other and their professors well. What’s more, many students enroll in a first-year learning community (LC), through which students co-enroll in two or more courses that are linked with a common theme; each community focuses on either a subject area or a specific student population and help students develop a sense of belonging within KSU.
The university also offers a unique First-Gen Initiatives program, which focuses on the school’s large population of students who are the first in their families to enter college. A First-Gen Owls group offers support and resources, as well as mentorship opportunities.
Georgia State University offers several Freshman Learning Communities (FLC) to connect peers with similar academic and personal interests. Groups are designed as a built-in support team, with study buddies enrolled in similar courses to explore their interests while offering support.
In addition to FLC, incoming students enjoy a wealth of resources, including orientation and academic coaching through the University Advisement Center’s Freshmen Office. For instance, the Success Academy is a three-semester extended learning community that connects all first-year students with programs, activities and services to ensure success; offerings include academic skills workshops, peer mentoring, leadership development, social networking events and more. Additionally, all freshmen are required to participate in Mandatory Advisement, which connects each student with an academic advisor to discuss course scheduling and address any academic challenges faced throughout the first year.
Incoming freshmen to the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) may self-select the Freshman Experience Program to help build a personal and academic foundation. Students taking similar courses are assigned to live together in a residence hall, share meals and utilize free programs like tutoring, leadership skills development, networking opportunities and more. First-year students also have access to Peer Leaders who live on the same floor along with freshmen and share their experiences while helping guide newcomers in the right direction. Those involved in the program also have access to the First-Year Activities Board (FAB), which is a Department of Housing student organization that plans and promotes social events for students in their first year at Georgia Tech.
Who better to look to than students who have been there before and succeeded? The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) connects Student Success Advisors to incoming freshmen in a First Year Experience (FYE) course. The extended orientation course is pass/fail and covers success strategies, college policies, choosing a major, career options and more. At its core, FYE offers more clarity to the various SCAD majors and resources available to enhance their success; it meets for one hour once per week and is free for SCAD students. The course must be completed before declaring a major and is designed to help students make genuine connections with both instructors and fellow students.
For more information, visit:
Agnes Scott College
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia State University
Kennesaw State University
Savannah College of Art and Design
University of Georgia