Freshman residential communities expand themes

Freshmen will have more options next school year thanks to changes to the Freshman Interest Groups on campus, a university official said.

Additions to Freshman Interest Groups, residence hall communities based on specific themes, include the addition of a Creativity and Performing Arts group, which targets students who have an interest in the arts, from music to drama, and Pre-Health, which focuses on the medical field, said Heather Miller, assistant director of Residential Services.

The Frog Camp FIG will split into two groups: Spirit & Traditions and Leadership 1.0, which feeds into the Living Learning Community theme, Leadership 2.0, for upperclassmen at Carter and Samuelson halls.

Miller said one of the main things the department learned in the inaugural year of the program was that some FIGs struggled because the theme was too broad for students to plan programs for.

“We’ve learned that communities that have a lot of structure and direction are the most successful,” Miller said.

For the 2009-10 school year, the list of FIGs includes Business, a group for hopeful business majors, Service and Learning, which focuses on community services, Women in Science and Health, a group for women with interest in the scientific field, Education, which focuses on students who want to go into teaching, and Honors, a group for students in the honors program, Miller said.

The residence halls involved in the FIG program are Clark, Waits, and Foster.

Miller said the Frog Camp FIG split because it had too many people, and the theme was too wide-ranging for any sort of true interest group to form among the wing, she added.

Bridgit Breslow, director of Foster Hall, said that although having a well-defined theme is important, it won’t matter if students don’t take an interest in the community.

“It’s like herding cats,” Breslow said. “If students don’t want to have an interest, then they won’t. The (resident assistants) can light the spark and get them excited when they move in with the decorations on the bulletin boards, but the residents have to be motivated to come back and keep doing the program.”

Breslow said the Business FIG, which had professors come to meetings and give presentations, as well as group trips to see a speaker invited by the Neeley School of Business, helped the members understand the tools they need in order to excel in the school.

Katie Knable, director of Waits Hall, will be the host of the Creative and Performing Arts FIG. Knable said she hopes the FIG will expand out from beyond its academic uses.

“The point of the FIGs is to create bonds with students who have similar interests, and who all have similar schedules,” Knable said. “This allows them to really share that bond and support each other by going to each other’s performances as well as helping each other out with class work.”