Feb. 1, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 9

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    Administrators keep communication lines open as students continue their undergraduate studies

    After a flurry of administrative attention is bestowed on them during their first year in the College, students sometimes liken their second year to being dropped in the deep end of a pool, according to Heather Johnson, Director of the College Programming Office.

    To provide some “swimming lessons,” Johnson’s office developed Second-Year Dinners, in which fellow classmates share a meal with University administrators.

    Edward Turkington Deputy Dean of Students in the University and Dean of Student Services, talks with second-year students in Harper Memorial Library, where the College conducts its Second-Year Dinners during the months of January and February. The dinners provide both students and administrators an opportunity to share concerns and ideas and to receive feedback about student life and College academics.

    Based on student and alumni feedback, the program, now in its second year, is one of several events the College has developed to help students effectively navigate their undergraduate years while creating a sense of their class’s identity.

    During January and February, John Boyer, Dean of the College, and Katie Nash, Dean of Students in the College, will host approximately 30 dinners, each attended by three administrators and no more than 20 students.

    “The Second-Year Dinners are an excellent opportunity for College staff and advisers to meet in small groups with second-year students, to learn about their experiences in the first year, to ask for suggestions as to how we might structure our programs more effectively,” said Boyer.

    “We also answer questions about Concentrations as well as about our new study-abroad programs, FLAG grants, College internship programs and the many other initiatives the College has recently embarked on.”

    Johnson and the College Programming Office staff are responsible for the class-oriented programming that also includes first-year orientation, Taking the Next Step for third years and senior week. The office develops programming in conjunction with Boyer, Nash and Bill Michel, Deputy Dean of Student Services for Development and Student Activities.

    “We conducted student focus groups to determine what type of class event would be helpful to second years. And in a group of 30 second years, there were 30 different opinions about what to do,” said Johnson. “However, students thought the focus groups were extremely helpful, and they said meeting administrators face to face was valuable.”

    Suddenly the Second-Year Dinners concept began to crystallize. The dinner conversations from the Class of 2002 have already inspired a new, online resource guide currently in development.

    Johnson predicts that Second-Year Dinners will inspire future events or tools that will help students with the transition from familiarizing themselves with the College in their first year to fully using College resources in their second year.

    Amanda Geppert, Assistant Director in the College Programming Office, said a summary report on topics discussed at the dinners will be posted online at http://classof2003.uchicago.edu/main.html later this year.

    “These are bright students who have good ideas,” said Geppert. “Sitting down for a meal with Ed Turkington or Katie Nash gives students a good opportunity to learn early on that these are accessible people.”

    Boyer noted that the conversations cover more than “swimming lessons” that allow students to stay afloat.

    “The dinners also provide us with important feedback and give us a chance to convey to our second-year students how proud we are of them, how pleased we are with their many successes and how confident we are of their continued success in the College,” Boyer said.