Morristown, N.J. (September 22, 2016) – The new FASTRAK program run from CSE's Conklin Academic Success Center was a week-long residential experience this past summer, designed to provide first-year students with an introduction to college life. Reading and writing, math, study skills, and community living, as well as some recreational time, gave the 20 students the support that will help them stay in college.
The FASTRAK students moved into Founders Hall on August 9, 2016, and completed the program on August 17, 2016, with a dinner and presentation of projects. The next day, August 18, was the beginning of student orientation for the entire College.
Students were selected from the pool of enrolled students who showed promise for academic success and invited to participate in the week. This week, held at no cost to the student, offered four elective credits upon completion.
The classes and activities were built around the story and movie, The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003). The plot centers around the life of Golgul Ganguli, an American-born son of Indian immigrants, and the themes of identity, naming, culture, tradition, belonging, and home. The novel, chosen by CSE faculty staff and students as their first annual Common Read experience, resonates with the Class of 2020 as the College experiences its beginnings as a coed institution. Lessons and events from this novel will continue throughout freshman year and across the College campus by being incorporated into all Element I classes, various other classes across disciplines, and in other CSE experiences.
Each day, the FASTRAK students had sessions such as Achieving Writing and Reading Excellence (AWARE). Building Academic Successes and Experiences (BASE) were a regular part of each session to develop study skills. Tech sessions introduced students to various programs and systems including CSE Connects, through which the student can find on-campus employment, and ePortfolio, which is where the students will create an academic and professional portfolio during their tenure at CSE.
"A group of 20 strangers one day turned into a family overnight. We were learning how to be successful in this new journey, called college," said Damara Banton. "We worked through many a sleepless night, because we would stay up getting to know each other. This program was great, filled with inspiration from the peer assistants as well as each and every faculty member we met."
Over the weekend, the FASTRAK students, faculty, and staff explored the neighboring towns of Madison and Morristown. There was opportunity to go to Mass on Sunday morning, as well. Outside of the classes and tutoring sessions, the students participated in team building activities.
"Students in this program learned that the entire faculty and staff are here for them," said Lynne McEniry, director of the FASTRAK program and the Conklin Academic Success Center. "In addition to the academics, building relationships with the faculty and each other has them understanding that they are a viable part of the CSE community and that their learning takes place both in and out of the classroom."
"This will be a significant transition for these students and the more support they can receive before courses and assignments become too overwhelming, the more likely they are to succeed," says Dr. Monique Guillory, vice president for academic affairs. "I think FASTRAK also gives these students some insight into how supportive and committed our faculty and staff are, which will make them more likely to seek help when they really need it."