First Year Council Initiatives Promote School Spirit

Sara Leidner is UMBC’s Coordinator of Student Life for Student Organizations and Involvement, and an advisor to the First Year Council.

Sara Leidner 2The First Year Council–a group of first-year UMBC students nominated by student organizations–works with campus leaders to make the first-year experience the best it can be. Past First Year Councils have addressed weekend dining options, created community-building programs and helped peers find the information they needed on campus. A member of the original First Year Council spearheaded the establishment of the Homecoming Bonfire as a campus tradition.

This year’s First Year Council has developed a partnership with the Department of Athletics to attract more followers to the Athletics Facebook and Twitter pages. This is one of several First Year Council initiatives aimed at boosting school spirit and encouraging more students to support our athletes and attend games. I’m hoping to share their progress in coming weeks as they work with other campus departments to support their efforts.

FYC 2014

Contact the author, Sara Leidner, at

First Year Council Addresses Weekend Dining Options

Violet Haya, Bentley Corbett, Laura Hoelzer, Saniya Chaudhry, Tahlia Tavai, Sandy Nguyen, Emily Bernstein, Steven Nguyen, Imani Spence, Sara Kim, Michelle Seu, Amanda Quinn, Eva Benvenga, Poulomi Banerjee, Sohha Ariannejad, Anthony Nguyen, Elizabeth Sines, Hayden Marshall, Ari Zaya and Molly Nicholson are members of UMBC’s 2012-2013 First Year Council.

fyc 2013We are the UMBC First Year Council (FYC), a diverse group of freshmen and transfer students who are trying to make positive change on campus for everyone. We were nominated for our problem-solving skills and campus involvement by various campus organization leaders. This year, we met once a week discuss how we could improve campus life from the perspective of new students. Here are our reflections on the year:

We explored a variety of issues that affect student life, and noticed dissatisfaction with campus dining options available to students on the weekend. We worked closely with Chartwells and UMBC administrators over the past few months in order to improve the dining experience of the UMBC community. After weeks of brainstorming and consideration, the Council has come up with the following option: opening a small food vendor in the Commons during the weekend in addition to the big food vendor that is already open, and rotating among vendors on a schedule.

If you are a current student at UMBC we want to hear your thoughts on weekend dining options. Please complete our survey by Sunday, May 19th.

We are so exited to meet next year’s First Year Council. Information on how to join FYC will be available at Involvement Fest on September 4, 2013!

The First Year Council is supported through Student Life by a peer advisor (Sam Spehr for 2012-2013) and staff advisors. Contact FYC through staff advisors Virginia Byrne at or Sara Leidner at

Seeds of Change and Growth: My UMBC Years

Eric Anthony Grollman ’07, sociology and psychology, is a PhD candidate at Indiana University.  He will begin teaching at the University of Richmond in August.

Eric Anthony GrollmanRecently, I watched Dr. Freeman Hrabowski’s TED talk on the key initiatives needed to help all students to be successful. As usual, I was inspired by his passion, creative vision, and ideas. To share his message, I wrote about his talk in my blog, and reflected a little on my time at UMBC. “Wow,” I thought, “I hadn’t realized just how much UMBC set the stage for my career as a researcher, teacher, and advocate.”

At the start of college, I was an outspoken, know-it-all 18-year-old, struggling as a Meyerhoff Scholar. I was a math major, frustrated by what felt like a disconnect between my passion to make a difference in the world and calculus. I had immediately taken on a leadership position in the Freedom Alliance, the university’s group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. Thanks to some tough love from my parents and the Meyerhoff staff, I decided to “get it together,” which meant leaving the program to pursue a major in sociology. That was probably the hardest, yet best decision I have made in life thus far. [Read more…]

First Year Council: Impact from the Start

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. [Read more…]