University News

Pre-orientation programs see increase in student interest, funds

Program attendees said their experiences influenced both their academic and social paths at Brown

Staff Writer
Thursday, September 19, 2013

Three out of Brown’s five pre-orientation programs — Excellence at Brown, The Third World Transition Program and Catalyst — saw increases in the number of applicants this year.

While 80 students enrolled in Excellence at Brown four years ago, 135 out of the 200 freshmen who applied enrolled this year. TWTP had a waiting list of students this year after 205 were chosen to participate, compared to the 198 freshman who applied and were accepted in 2011. A larger number of students also applied to Catalyst, though program directors did not provide specific numbers. Directors of the University Community Academic Advising Partnership did not report an increase in the number of applicants.


Why apply?

“I’m not sure why so many people are attracted because it is an intense program,” said Douglas Brown, director of writing support programs and founder of Excellence at Brown. Students attend academic classes and have to write an essay each day with feedback from Writing Fellows. Excellence received its endowment two years ago from an anonymous donor, which is put toward buying food and paying participating faculty members.

Hannah Braun ’14 — one of the co-coordinators of Excellence this year — said she chose to participate in the program as a first-year because, while she felt her writing was strong in comparison to her high school peers, it wasn’t strong enough for Brown.

For Alaska native Sirena Turner ’17, pre-orientation posed a chance to come early to campus and adjust to life at Brown. She applied to Excellence more for the chance to settle in than for the opportunity to learn to write, she said.

David Hernandez ’16 said he chose to apply to Catalyst to ease his transition into taking science classes at Brown. “I wanted to be prepared for them,” he added.

Joseph Browne, director of the new science program, said that increased interest in Catalyst may be a result of changes in the program’s structure — Catalyst originally focused on student-faculty mentoring and on developing skills students would use in STEM classes, but it has grown to include academic lectures and an online portion for students to complete before arriving on campus.

TWTP became a fully endowed program in 2012 with help from a $100,000 fundraising campaign led by Jason Sperber ’98 and his wife Michelle Quiogue ’96 MD’00 as part of the Alumni of Color Initiative. Another $50,000 was contributed this year, and the Alumni of Color Initiative has pledged to raise another $40,000 for the program in the current fiscal year in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Minority Peer Counselor Program.

Takeru Nagayoshi ’14, co-coordinator and former attendee of TWTP, said the connection between topics students address during the program and recent world news could have sparked increased student interest in TWTP. Topics of discussion range from rape culture and social class distinctions to marriage equality laws, he said.

Shane Lloyd MPH’11, assistant director for first- and second-year programs, added that social networking might have also played a role in TWTP’s popularity this year. TWTP was highly discussed on the class of 2017 Facebook page over the summer, he said.

“TWTP felt like a very safe environment — one that I liked,” said Julia Watson ’17. Taylor Michael ’17 said that she chose to participate because TWTP offered a network where she could talk about sensitive, difficult issues.

Director of Advising and Community Collaborations Alan Flam said there are “no neon signs” advertising UCAAP — the program attracts enough first-years who want to incorporate their service interests into their academics to fill the 50 spots available. The Swearer Center allows the program a “pretty modest budget” annually, Flam wrote in an email to The Herald.

Entering Brown as a varsity athlete, Sazzy Gourley ’16 said he applied to UCAAP because he expected he wouldn’t have a lot of time to explore areas outside his sport and his classes once his schedule was set. “I wanted to have the chance to expose myself to a lot of Brown communities and see where I wanted to get involved,” he said.


Peak participation

Students who participated in pre-orientation programs said their experiences were rewarding both academically and socially in the short and long term.

Turner said she only thought she could write before attending Excellence.

Braun said students develop an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses as writers while in the program and typically return to the Writing Center throughout their Brown career.

“I personally still use the Writing Center all the time,” Braun said. Braun said she also met her best friend, who is now the program’s other co-coordinator, as a first-year in the program.

Turner said she was grateful for the chance to make a close group of friends before her whole class arrived. “I would have felt so alone if I had come when everyone else came,” she said.

Now a senior, Nagayoshi is still close with friends he made as a first-year in TWTP. He said the discussions he had with other participants during pre-orientation activities influenced the courses he took at Brown, his choice of concentration and his decision to be involved with the Third World Center throughout his four years on campus.

“Catalyst made me aware of the mentoring and resources available to me,” Hernandez said, adding that his participation was crucial in connecting him to the people he needed to know in order to participate in summer research at Brown as a rising sophomore.

UCAAP participant Danielle Phan ’16 said she came to Brown expecting to be more involved in Providence than on campus, and UCAAP provided her the resources to do so. She started work with the Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment program.

“I ended up putting all of my time into an organization that I had never even heard of,” she said. “I think UCAAP was a very significant factor in what I decided to do here.”