September 28, 2016

In collaboration with advisors from sixteen different College of Arts & Sciences departments, C21 ran Advising and Orientation (A&O) sessions for approximately 1,000 freshmen this summer. First Year Programs invited C21 to develop active and engaging breakout sessions that would orient students toward intentional learning at the University of Washington. Through this new partnership with First Year Programs, C21 was able to lay the groundwork for freshmen to develop a better understanding of their motivations and interests.

In order to strike a chord with incoming freshmen, C21 included current students in the session-design process. A group of students involved with C21 programming was tasked with the challenge of creating 50-minute sessions that would provide freshmen the A&O experience they wish they had. Drawing from their experiences with C21, the course selection process, and knowledge of the university, students largely designed the sessions offered to this year’s freshmen.  

With the intention of broadening the way in which students conceptualize the academic experience, sessions were titled “Leave Your Major at the Door.” Each session was co-led by at least one A&S advisor, C21 staff member, and Orientation Leader. Freshman participants were guided through fast-paced individual and group activities that focused on their learning narratives—past, present, and future. They discussed the freedom they have to choose anything they want as their elective classes, which are located outside of majors and general education requirements, and received suggestions from advisors and peers about how they can pursue their interests in college.

“This was a really cool experience,” exclaimed Janet Germeraad, Director of Academic Services in Biology. “It gave students an opportunity to think about the credits they get to own. We’re at this miraculous place. What do you want to learn?”

At the end of each session, freshmen took out their cell phones and took photos of their self-generated list of ideas, curiosities, and experiences that they would like to explore during their time at UW. They were encouraged to bring these lists to course registration labs the following day and to future academic advising appointments.

“Students came to see us as a key resource, not just a representative of the department,” said Alyssa Penner, a Senior Academic Advisor for the Law, Societies, and Justice Program. “This helped introduce students to the role of advising. It’s not just about selecting classes. It’s thinking about broader goals: academically, professionally, and personally.”