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Making four years worth it

First Year Seminar gives students a meaningful University experience

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First Year Seminar gives students the opportunity to meet in weekly groups and learn how to make the most of their University experience.



“In high school, you had time to establish yourself and hold solid leadership positions. The transition took a shot at my confidence, and I kind of lost who I was.”

First-year College student Tiffani Kennedy came to college anxious about the transition from high school.

“In high school, you had time to establish yourself and hold solid leadership positions,” Kennedy said. “The transition took a shot at my confidence and I kind of lost who I was.”

To help calm her nerves, she turned to First Year Seminar — a move she hoped would allow her to connect with more of her first-year classmates. The voluntary discussion-based program aims to help students with this transition in order to make the most of their time at the University.

The program spans five-weeks and meets once a week for two hours at Scott Stadium. Upperclassmen with diverse backgrounds facilitate each discussion.

Fourth-year College student Marymagdaline Onyango is one of the program’s leaders.

“First Year Seminar show[s] that there are different paths to be successful at U.Va. and you can forge your own path,” Onyango said.

The program discussions cover a wide range of topics, from faculty-student relationships to identity awareness.

“One of the benefits [of First Year Seminar] is what we have in our second week called ‘De-stereotype Me,’” Onyango said. “You talk about judgment and identity — how you generalize others and how you generalize yourself.”

This exercise made a particular impression on first-year College student Jane Winthrop.

“We learned you can’t judge someone just by looking at them, especially in such a diverse community like U.Va.,” Winthrop said.

The First Year Seminar program concludes with a panel of fourth-year students who answer anonymous questions. The diversity of facilitators shows first-year participants the diverse range of opportunities offered by the University.

“[College is] really overwhelming at first with all the clubs and stuff,” Kennedy said. “Knowing your identity, you have more confidence to branch out, and you’re less likely to change your personality to fit in with different groups.”


Published February 18, 2014 in Life

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