While most first-years are eager to meet and greet each other upon entering the College, getting to know other students becomes harder after freshmen year. Upperclassmen and first-years often meet through clubs, sports or just by chance and all first-years have two Junior Advisors (JAs) who are there to guide students through the year. But what if a first-year wants a closer connection with an upperclassman and doesn’t know how to find one?
This is the question that Cole Fluehr ’18 and his team from Kinetic, the College’s action-oriented think tank, raised. Instead of sitting around and wondering what the administration could do to promote more relationships between upperclassmen and first-years, the group decided to create something itself. The resulting program is called Big Eph Little Eph, and it aims to match first-years (Little Ephs) with upperclassmen (Big Ephs), who have more experience figuring out how college works academically, socially and otherwise.
As Fluehr explained, “It’s a pairing program to try to get incoming freshmen to be better acquainted with college life and it’s various facets.”
The conversation around starting this program began in Kinetic, a group that encourages students to form a team, find a problem and then create a program or initiative to address that problem. Working with Fluehr are Christine Tamir ’18, Stephanie Li ’18, Marcus Colella ’17, Aubrey Kenefick ’16, Janice Lee ’17 and Zoe Dutton ’19.
A few months ago, Fluehr said, the group “took a poll from all four classes through Facebook.” Greater upperclassmen mentorship was one of the elements of life at the College that many students expressed as lacking. Fluehr’s Kinetic group spent the rest of fall semester coming up with a plan to fill this need, and, this semester, it is putting the program into action. This pilot year, the group will establish the program in only a few entries to start with hopes of expanding it in the next year or two, with the intent of making the program large scale like the entry system. While the program is being run primarily through Kinetic, Big Ephs recieve training through Peer Health. Fluehr’s Kinetic team has also consulted the Dean’s Office.
The process for matching first years with a upperclassmen is simple. Both Big Ephs and Little Ephs fill out questionnaires that ask a variety of questions about everything from academic interests to how others perceive you. One thing the questionnaires do not focus on is extracurricular activities.
“We’re not too concerned with extracurriculars because that isn’t telling of personal characteristics. We would rather get a gauge of what people are like in and of themselves,” Fluehr said. Once everyone has answered the questionnaires, the programs will match each student on the qualities reported. Fluehr hopes that the pairs will meet for the first time within two weeks of the start of spring semester.
After that, he would like to see them meet at least once every two weeks for the rest of the year “in a setting like lunch or something casual to get to know each other.” Kinetic will not choose these subsequent times and places, as Fluehr feels that such organized meetings can feel awkward and forced.
So far, there is nothing like this program on campus, with the possible exception of the JA system. “The JA system is effective, but it could be improved,” Fluehr said. He believes that Big Eph Little Eph could be one way to do so.
Building relationships between first-years and upperclassmen can make a student’s experience at the College stronger. Ideally, the first- years who take part in the program will become Big Ephs when they get older.
As a first-year in one of the entries that gets to participate in the pilot program, I am currently waiting to be matched. While I do know many upperclassmen and I have my JAs, I’m looking forward to meeting my Big Eph.