Willamette’s First-Year Experience program is taking a holistic approach towards fostering collegiate success with the introduction upperclassmen student assistants known as Colloquium Associates (CAs).
“The First-Year Experience is a culmination of the best parts of previous first-year programs at Willamette as well as best practices across the U.S.,” said Professor Sarah Kirk, Director of the First-Year Experience and a key player in implementing the new CA position.
Colloquium is a Latin derivative meaning “talk together.” Colloquium classes are small in size and taught by experienced faculty that double as academic advisors. “What we’ve added to colloquium is the ‘fourth-hour,’” said Kirk. While each respective colloquium has different content, the fourth-hour has the same content for every colloquium group.
The fourth-hour meets once a week and is taught by campus experts who cover a broad swath of topics, like “What is a Liberal Arts Education?” or “What is a Healthy Relationship?” Discussions on the topics are then facilitated by CAs.
Before beginning their role as facilitators, CAs are required to complete a leadership course titled “Colloquium Leadership”, led by Kirk and Kelvin Clark, director of Academic Support. CA students receive half credit for this class, in which they study transferable skills such as student development theory, community building and active listening. After completing the leadership training, CAs are paid for their participation in the program. In addition to discussion facilitation, Colloquium Associates attend colloquium classes and hold their own office hours. First-year students can utilize these office hours for academic or social support.
Opening Days leaders are partnered with CAs for a smooth transition from Opening Days to the start of the academic year.
Some Colloquium Associates were recruited based on their experience with subjects being considered in a specific Colloquium class. Such was the case for Jay Hadfield (’20) and Kelly Ewing (’20). Russian major and English minor Jay Hadfield is working as a Colloquium Assistant for Professor Randall Havas’s “Existentialism in Literature: Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’” class. Hadfield spent a semester studying in St. Petersburg and also received a Carson Grant for research on Russian poetry titled, “Spirit of Exile: Queer Identity and Romantic Tradition in Lermontov’s ‘Demon.’”
“I think if I had taken on a role like this when I was 19, I would have done an awful job and led students quite astray. Now, though, I feel secure enough in my own self and my own life that I feel like I have earned some right to offer guidance,” said Hadfield.
Another CA with experience in the field is Kelly Ewing, an environmental science major and Carson Grant recipient. As part of her Carson Grant, Ewing spent the summer researching regenerative agricultural practices in New Zealand by interviewing local farmers. After returning to Willamette, Ewing was recruited as a Colloquium Associate for Professor Katja Meyer’s class titled “Taming the Angry Beast: Climate Solutions”.
“I hope that the CA position turns into something lasting at Willamette,” said Ewing. “I think it has a lot of potential to connect people personally and provide academic support.”
Rising juniors and seniors interested in supporting first-year students and bolstering their own leadership experience can apply to be CAs in the next academic year. The application will be posted on Handshake and sent through email.
“The biggest strength of the First-Year Experience program is empowering students towards their own success,” said Kirk.