NMSU to host first-ever Discovery Days program

July 21, 2014 by Tiffany Acosta, NMSU News Center

The Discovery Days Bridge Program is a new three-day event, Aug. 14-16, at New Mexico State University to help incoming freshmen transition to university life. (NMSU photo by Erik Stenbakken)

The Discovery Days Bridge Program is a new three-day event, Aug. 14-16, at New Mexico State University to help incoming freshmen transition to university life. (NMSU photo by Erik Stenbakken)

For many freshmen, going to college brings a number of changes. In addition to a new school, students can have a new address, friends and freedom, and New Mexico State University has a new program to help students with the transition. The Discovery Days Bridge Program has been developed to help students build a strong foundation for their college careers.

A select number of incoming freshmen have been invited to participate in the three-day program that begins Aug. 14 at no cost to the students. Invitations were based on students’ majors listed on their NMSU application. Discovery Days organizers are expecting 100 students from the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering and College of Health and Social Services to participate.

“The students will form a learning community and engage in a variety of activities to prepare them for a successful first year at NMSU,” said Terry Cook, assistant vice president for student engagement. “The goal is to provide students with the knowledge and information about NMSU’s resources to support their success — these include places like the student success center, writing center and math center.”

All Discovery Days participants will have the residential life experience, by staying in the residence halls.

“We know from our data that students who live on campus tend to have higher retention rates, because they become more integrated and involved in campus life,” Cook said.

The inaugural Discovery Days will be filled with a variety of programming, including student success skills, opportunities to meet NMSU officials, sessions with faculty and peer mentors, along with social events during the evenings.

Four NMSU professors have been selected by their respective deans to work with the Discovery Days students. Each professor will work with a group of 25 students.

Eric Morgan, communication studies associate professor, and Laura Williams, director of the women’s studies program and assistant professor, were chosen from the College of Arts and Sciences. Maria Ortiz, social work college assistant professor, hails from the College of Health and Social Services and Steve Stochaj, electrical engineering distinguished professor, was tasked with representing the College of Engineering.

“These faculty members will assist with the transition to university life so students understand the role of the professor,” Cook said. “The programming is based on what these professors have learned from teaching first-year students. They understand where students struggle in the classroom.

“Many of our students are the first in their families to attend college, and faculty are a mysterious group,” Cook said. “They are unknown, and students don’t know what to expect. Involvement with faculty will make a lot of difference in how the students build relationships with professors throughout their college career.”

Cook said the faculty members have talked about creating an online course for their groups to utilize.

“The faculty members are all deeply student-focused people and they have a lot of creative ideas,” she said. “They want to create excitement about learning.”

In addition to faculty members working with the students, the NMSU Presidential Ambassadors also will assist with Discovery Days.

“The Presidential Ambassadors are current NMSU students who will provide mentoring sessions for the Discovery Days students. The Ambassadors can answer questions about what college is like from the students’ perspective,” Cook said. “We know that’s a powerful thing for students.

“Research indicates that students need to be connected to other members of the campus community very early in their college career. The Presidential Ambassadors will be great in this mentoring role.”

According to Cook, the program will continue through the fall semester with plans for at least one activity per month. She said she also hopes to expand the program to include more students in subsequent years.

“College is a whole experience for students,” she said. “It’s not just studying and earning a degree, it’s learning inside and outside the classroom.”

For more information visit http://discoverydays.nmsu.edu.

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