As another group of first-year students trickle onto Grounds this semester, members of the University community are doing their part to cultivate a sense of belonging among this new set of Cavaliers. The College Council hosted its second annual block party for first-year COLA students Friday. The event is aimed at helping students feel included among their peers and within the larger University community.
Last year, the College Council hosted a block party for two COLA classes. This year, 33 COLA courses were included so that more students would be able to attend. The College Council is the governing body of the College of Arts and Sciences and strives to represent the needs of students and strengthen the college's identity.
Taught in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University, COLA courses are a unique way for students to better acclimate themselves to life at the University.
COLAs are one-credit graded seminars intended to give first-year students new perspectives on their learning as one of their first college classes as well as a closer-knit relationship with their academic advisor — COLA professors become their students' academic advisors until students declare a major, permitting a more intimate faculty-student relationship.
Dean Connie Chic Smith teaches COLA 1500, "Brooklyn’s In the House – Rhetorical Criticism of Jay-Z and the Notorious B.I.G” and is also an advisor for the College Council. With COLA, Chich Smith said she had the opportunity to create the course that she wished she had taken as a doctoral student.
“I teach students how to do rhetorical critical criticism and look closely at a text to get a deeper meaning,” Chic Smith said. “Rather than using Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson, I use the lyrics of Jay Z — because I'm a Brooklyn girl.”
A father-daughter DJ duo whose energetic music pulled students to the O’hill lawn headlined the Block Party. First-year students who attended Block Party were given snacks, music, prizes and games. Many of them came with the friends they made in their COLA.
First-year College student Margaret Kimbrough said one of the reasons she attended Block Party was because of Chic Smith’s class
“We've been talking a lot in the class about how block parties were like a fundamental part of hip-hop culture,” Kimbrough said. “So that's a big reason why we're having this ... I thought it'd be really interesting and a cool experience to come in and see what it'd be like.”
The Block Party was not only a fun environment for students to socialize and meet other first years in their classes — attendees were also given the opportunity to learn about some of the resources available to them during their time at the University. The College Council provides research grants, co-sponsorships and programs like the Take Your Professor Out to Lunch program. co-sponsorships and more offered by College Council, according to Catherine Schwarzschild, president of the College Council and fourth-year College student.
Chic Smith said that many students question their sense of belonging at the University, especially in their first year. College Council and programs like Block Party help foster a sense of belonging, as well as showing students that they are not alone.
“Everybody at the University seems like they have everything together and I'm just figuring it out,” Chic Smith said. “But the truth of the matter is, that everybody is figuring it out. I want first-year students to feel like, ‘This is a place for me, I can figure it out, and I'm going to have some fun while I'm figuring it out. I have people here that will help me.”’