Jason Abisch

Equinox Staff


With over 1,400 first-year students attending Keene State College this year, faculty and staff have made it their first priority to assist them in their academic endeavors during their first six weeks of fall semester.

This year, KSC has instituted a new program called the First-Year Residential Experience Program (FYRE) in order to give first-year students opportunities to become more comfortable on campus and be a part of the community.

Nate Gordon, the coordinator of the first-year residential experience program, supervises all of the RDs in first-year residence halls and creates programs that help first-year students become acclimated to a college environment and become part of the Keene State initiative.

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“Keene State College prepares promising students to think critically and creatively, to engage in active citizenship, and to pursue meaningful work,”  KSC’s College Mission states.

Some of the programs that Gordon and his fellow RDs and RAs have created include study halls, alcohol education, sexual health, coping skills, stress management, and diversity all in the first six weeks of attending college.

“The first six weeks can be the most crucial time in a first-year’s college experience.” Gordon said.

RAs of first-year residence halls are required to put on campus events geared towards opening up first-year students to broader experiences. These experiences include peer advising sessions where students come into first-year residence halls and assist with picking classes and offering advice to help others. Another program that will soon be offered to first-year students are “FYRE chats” in which faculty members who attended Keene State previously talk about their experiences at the college and how it has helped shape them and their careers after graduation.

Gordon has been a part of Residential Life at Keene State College for the past five years, starting off as the first RD to be in charge of Pondside I when it was first being built. He also implemented the Living and Learning Communities (LLC) programs, which are now located in Pondside III.

Gordon hopes this program will lead to a required “First-Year Seminar” in which first-year students will attend several programs in regards to college living, healthy study habits, and general knowledge about the institution.  Such programs will be beneficial to students and help them with becoming more knowledgeable about resources on campus, become acclimated to college living, and feel more comfortable with themselves and the college environment.

Jana Jacobson, vice president of residential life, oversees all of the residential education initiatives. She hopes this program will eventually lead to the creation of a proposal for a coordinator that helps focus on first-year students’ needs as well as upperclassmen needs, and will do more for first-year students.

A key goal of both Jacobson and Gordon is the retention of first-year students. They hope that the transition between students in their first and second years at Keene State will increase by focusing on what the students’ needs are.

“The things we are offering specifically for first-years are important,” Jacobson said.

Gale Zimmerman, the associate vice president and dean of students, has high hopes for the first-year experience program. She works with students one-on-one who are being challenged with their college experiences to help them resolve their issues and become more confident in their abilities. Zimmerman also works closely with RDs towards first-year students’ individual needs, as well as helps support them in all of their academic goals.

In accordance to the new first-year experience program and position, she hopes that it will support social and academic adjustments, have students feel connected to the community, feel a sense of belonging to the institution, as well as gain feedback about how the campus environment supports and satisfies students’ needs. She also aims to encourage first-year students that are part of this program to increase self-esteem and the rate of academic sense of self.

In the future, Zimmerman wants to connect first-year students to resources sooner and create connections quicker; as with all other programs, it is a work in progress. She holds Gordon in high regards and believes that he will be successful in this position.

“It will be his successes in the end,” Zimmerman said.

A major emphasis of this program is the retention of students coming back after their first year at KSC. Zimmerman, Jacobson, and Gordon all agreed that this aspect of student life is of utmost importance and should be placed on high priority.


Jason Abisch can be contacted at jabisch@kcs.mailcruiser.com

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