FYRE program restructured

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Members of Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) and a student-led committee are looking to improve student satisfaction with the First Year Residential Experience (FYRE) program. Following consultation with first-years and Residential Advisors (RAs), REHS will open up the position of FYRE program facilitator to the general student population, according to Director of REHS Chad Myers.

The FYRE program takes place during the first weeks of the fall semester in order to help new students acclimate to life at Occidental. Currently facilitated by RAs, the program promotes engagement in both the academic and social aspects of the Occidental community.

A committee led by RAs and first-years has evaluated the effectiveness of FYRE and outlined areas for improvement. According to Myers, the primary aim of the committee is to try to find a way for students to enjoy FYRE.

The committee concluded that one way to improve the FYRE program would be to allow students who are not RAs to facilitate the sessions. According to Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) and Art History and Visual Arts (AVHA) double major Aneesah Estress (sophomore), who is an RA and a committee member, a major problem in the program was an inconsistency in group sizes, with some groups containing over 20 first-years. By introducing new facilitators, groups could be downsized, allowing for closer relationships between students and facilitators. In smaller groups the facilitators could mentor first-years, becoming something similar to the position of the orientation team leader during orientation.

“Some groups would only have nine people and other groups would have 25,” Estress said. “The idea to bring in other mentors was to lighten the burden on RAs and that groups were smaller so that people could learn more.”

Other issues the committee addressed involved an inconsistency in teaching methods used by RAs during the program. According to committee member and undeclared major Camille Cribbs (first-year), each first-year had a different FYRE experience.

“Some of the RAs weren’t as enthusiastic about FYRE as others,” Cribbs said. “As a result, everyone had a different FYRE experience.”

According to Estress, RAs were not informed of their responsibility as FYRE facilitators until fall training in August. Estress stressed that all RAs tried their best, but at times were intimidated by the small age gap between the RAs and students.

“It’s easy to forget we’re students too,” Estress said. “Some of my group were only a few months younger than me, but you’ve just got to throw yourself in there.”

Advertisements for the new voluntary facilitator positions were released last week via email, but students have shown limited interest thus far. According to Myers, almost every applicant is a student already on the committee. As Cribbs explains, current first-years’ bad experiences with FYRE are holding them back from volunteering. Cribbs attributes the lack of interest with the negative experiences of some first-years with the program.

“They don’t want to be part of something that they found negative,” Cribbs said. “It’s a shame because it’s cool to be able to talk to [incoming] first-years.

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