Marlboro College

News MARLBORO COLLEGE ORIENTATION PROGRAM EARNS REGIONAL HONORS

Marlboro, VT - (April 9, 2009) - Bridges, the Marlboro College orientation program for first year and transfer students, was recently recognized as the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Region 1 Program of the Year.

NASPA recognized Bridges as Vermont's 2008 Program of the Year last fall, which automatically entered it into regional consideration. Marlboro College is one of more than 130 institutions in Region 1, which encompasses Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, as well as parts of Europe and Canada.

NASPA is the foremost professional association for student affairs administrators, faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students, with over 11,000 members at 1,400 campuses, and representing 29 countries. Each year, NASPA Excellence Awards recognize the contributions of members who are transforming higher education through outstanding programs, innovative services, and effective administration.

"This is quite an honor and on behalf of Marlboro College, I thank NASPA's region 1 leadership for the recognition," says Marlboro College Dean of Students, Dr. Kenneth Schneck.

Bridges began in the fall of 2008, succeeding Marlboro's 18-year long "Woods" program, which consisted of student-led camping trips focused on outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking or rock-climbing. Schneck says that Woods was a valuable program for those that participated, but several factors prevented almost half of each year's incoming class from taking part, including cost, timing or lack of interest in camping.

"Woods participants came back from their trips bonded, excited and confident, all of which contribute to a successful transition into college," says Schneck. "Further research into our retention rates indicated a strong correlation between students who left the college in the first semester and those who were ‘Non-Woods.'"

To create Bridges, Marlboro's Orientation committee put out a call to the Marlboro College and surrounding community to create some non-camping options. New programs included cooking, writing and bookmaking, a trip to the Montreal Film Festival and a full-scale art collective that was exhibited in the college's Drury Gallery during September. In addition, a member of Marlboro's board of trustees approved full funding for the program, which for the first time eliminated cost as a barrier for student participation.

Schneck cautions that retention rates cannot be fully analyzed for a few years, but initial data shows a marked reduction in the number of students who would have normally left Marlboro at this point in the semester. On a follow-up survey with participants, 88 percent agreed Bridges was a great way to start their Marlboro experience, with 92 percent agreeing the trip helped them bond with fellow incoming students.

Political theory professor Meg Mott participated in a trip entitled, "La Vida Local: How to eat well, save the planet, and keep your neighbors in work." She says the student's social connections helped them manage the stress of the classroom experience, where first years students sit alongside juniors and seniors.

"In the past, new students have been so anxious about fitting in that they don't listen to their own ideas. This year, the new students offered dissenting opinions. They even questioned certain cultural assumptions on campus. The older students were taken aback. No one had ever asked them to justify these things before. The result, in terms of discussion, was fabulous," says Mott.

Planning for 2009 Bridges excursions are well underway, says Schneck, with the goal of staying true to the values of personal attention, individuality and personal responsibility that characterize the Marlboro community.

For more information, please contact the Marlboro College Public Relations office at 802-251-7644 or pr@marlboro.edu.

For more than 60 years, Marlboro College has offered undergraduate education in the liberal arts. Its 330 undergraduate students enjoy an 8:1 student-faculty ratio, a voice in governing the community and individualized courses of study on a 300-acre campus in the hills of southern Vermont. Marlboro College has also offered graduate degrees and certificate programs for working adults at the Marlboro College Graduate School, located in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, since 1997.

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