Surviving beyond the first year

Oct 7, 2005

Incoming freshmen at Kettering are getting advice on how to survive and thrive the challenges of freshman year and one of the countries top co-op Engineering schools.

Heeding the advice of Resident Hall Assistants (RA) when they recommend getting involved as a way to succeed in college, 40 incoming freshman from B-Section jumped at the change to jump-start their college experience at Camp COMPASS.

Camp COMPASS is a leadership development opportunity offered to new students before beginning their first term at Kettering University. The 40 freshmen are joined by ten of Kettering's student leaders who help them forge new friendships and develop leadership skills.

This year Camp COMPASS was held at the Adventure Learning Center at Eagle Village near Reed City, Michigan. The 683 acre-campus has adventure facilities including indoor and outdoor ropes courses, climbing walls, and towers as well as cooperative and initiative activities facilitated by trained professionals.

COMPASS participants spend two days in activities including high-ropes, a giant's ladder (7 rungs of a ladder covering about 50 feet), and other team-building and leadership exercises. The program is designed to promote leadership in members of the Freshmen class, according to Jon Kowalski, of Commerce Township, Mich. Throughout the activities, participants are asked to compare some of the struggles that they have overcome during the activities to possible struggles that they may face in college life, Kowalski said.

Groups formed for COMPASS typically forge strong friendships that last throughout their Kettering experience.

"Camp COMPASS is the best program I have been involved with at Kettering. Before school even started I had already met the students who are now my closest friends and mentors," said Scott Porter, of Clinton Township, Mich., "my experience at Camp not only provided me with a valuable social network, it also encouraged me to become a leader on campus, both inside and outside of the classroom," he said.

Molly Hill, of Grand Blanc, Mich., felt COMPASS gave her a head start on college life. "Camp gave us the opportunity to form friendships and enhance our leadership skills," she said, "we were welcoming the other freshmen and helping them move in."

Another way for students to integrate successfully into campus life is get to know faculty members in their degree major. Students had a chance to do that when the Student Academic Resource Center invited them to meet informally with faculty in the International Room and ask questions about degree programs.

Instead of RAs giving advice on how to survive the freshman experience, it was the Peer Tutors at the podium offering up ideas on how to succeed academically until graduation. Jonathan Blocker, of Clio, Mich., encouraged freshmen to utilize Peer Tutors and the Tutoring Center.

"This school is different than high school was," said Blocker. "You may have been at the top of your class in high school and it may have seemed easy, but asking for help doesn't mean you are less intelligent than everyone else - it just means you have the wisdom to seek help."

Asking for help can be a difficult thing to do, according to Susan Carlson, assistant director of Academic Services, especially if students have never experienced academic difficulty in the past.

"Seeking out help in a tough subject is a sign of a good student, not a weakness in character or intelligence," said Carlson. "Incoming students often feel more at easy approaching someone who has 'been there, done that' and Kettering's Peer Tutoring programs offer that service."

Jerry Huson, a transfer student from Ghana, also recommended students get to know their professors. "I came from a school of 20,000 students where you had to schedule an appointment with professors two weeks in advance," he said. "Here we have a tremendous opportunity to have personal contact with our professor - take advantage of it. It may have been embarrassing to be the teacher's pet in high school, but believe me, HERE you want to be the teacher's pet because it opens up many opportunities for you."

Written by Dawn Hibbard