David Hoffman is Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency at UMBC.
Each October a group of new UMBC students gathers to share stories and start envisioning contributions which will enhance the UMBC experience for them and their peers. Over the ensuing weeks, with help from a more experienced peer and staff advisors, they learn about UMBC’s structure, resources and decision processes. But they already are experts on the most important subject they need to master before starting to make a difference: what it is like to be new members of our campus community.
When the Office of Student Life and Student Government Association collaborated to launch the First Year Council in 2004, we had high hopes but modest expectations. Would new students really be willing and able to think creatively about UMBC’s future while they were still learning how to thrive here? We hoped the chance to connect with peers and campus leaders would build their confidence and sense of opportunity, and we were right. The founding First Year Council envisioned and planned an event that would pull the campus together: a “world record” water gun fight (more photos here), which made local headlines. One of its members, Thomas Locastro, worked all year to win campus support for his plan to launch the tradition of a Homecoming Bonfire. He succeeded, and the very first bonfire took place in October 2005.
Subsequent Councils have provided feedback to campus administrators on Welcome Week, developed resources to help new students navigate UMBC, and provided information to their peers about opportunities to get involved in campus life. The First Year Council has been a launching pad for student leaders, many of whom have used the skills, knowledge and relationships they developed as freshmen to make significant contributions to UMBC. SGA President Kaylesh Ramu was a member of the First Year Council her freshman year.
Recruitment for this year’s First Year Council is underway. To become a member, students must be nominated by any student organization by Friday, September 28th, using this form. If you’re a new student and want to join, all you have to do is find an organization to nominate you. But the nomination requirement isn’t intended as a barrier to joining, so if you have any difficulty, contact sophomore Sam Spehr, the First Year Council’s peer advisor, at email@example.com.
Contact the author, David Hoffman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.