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  November 3, 2003

New Program Preps Seniors
For Life After College

The University's first effort to cap students' UConn careers with a Senior Year Experience was a rousing success. Countdown to Commencement, held October 23, was the first of what is expected to be at least a dozen events tied to the new Senior Year Experience.

Uncertain how many seniors would turn out for the event, organizers of the South Campus open house ordered 500 t-shirts and an equal number of copies of Life After School Explained, a funny, informative how-to book that discusses money, apartments, jobs, cars, and the myriad other trials and tribulations that soon-to-be UConn alumni will face. They were gone within 30 minutes.

"We'll have to rethink our estimates before the next event," said Kevin Sullivan, an advisor in the Office of Special Programs and one of the SYE leaders, along with Cynthia Jones, director of career services, and Steven Jarvi, director of the Academic Center for Entering Students (ACES).

"We do a wonderful job helping our students move from high school to college through the First Year Experience," said Fred Maryanski, senior vice provost for academic affairs. "We'd like to do an equally good job of helping students make the transition from college to the outside world. We want them to identify themselves as members of the Class of 2004."

During the course of the afternoon and evening event, more than 1,300 seniors visited the ballroom in South Campus, moving from table to table as they learned about the UConn Alumni Association, the Nutmeg Yearbook, how to order caps and gowns from the UConn Co-op, how to enhance their resumes, and more.

Ilse Richmond, a nutritional sciences major originally from Peru, also thought the program was excellent.

"I think it's great," she said. "I got some material from the graduate school, the yearbook company, the alumni. I did think there would be some companies here though."

All in good time, said Jones, the career services director.

"We'll have a career fair in the spring," she said.

Maryanski said he and John Saddlemire, dean of students and interim vice president of student affairs, had been considering a senior experience for some time. They became convinced a program was needed when results from the National Survey of Student Engagement indicated that, while UConn fared better than the national norm for freshman programs, it didn't measure up when it came to helping seniors move on. A 15-member committee was assembled and charged with the task of creating the senior year experience.

"The idea was to try to keep seniors connected to the University, both during their last year here and when they leave us, and to prepare them for life in the real world, to be good citizens," said Maryanski.

"We also want to celebrate what they've achieved," he said, noting that art and engineering students prepare senior projects, most business majors perform research projects or internships, and other schools offer capstone courses for the upperclassmen and women.

Programming will occur both on-line and in group settings. It will involve self-help tips for the future and information on what the students must do as they approach graduation, from filing a diploma application to submitting a final plan of study, making sure they have completed all their required courses - and paid their parking fines.

Sullivan said the pace of the program will accelerate in February, when a series of events will be scheduled, and again later in the spring, as the countdown to commencement starts to be measured in days and weeks, not months.

"It's evolving," says Saddlemire. "But we got off to a great start."