January 7, 2010
The UW Residential FIG Program: Living and learning in Lander Hall
When most people’s alarm clock rings in the morning, it’s time to pick out an outfit and get dressed in order to start the day. Students in Residential Freshmen Interest Groups (Res FIGs for short) may tell you a different routine, though.
Residential FIGs are an offshoot of the FIG program, which is designed to offer new students advising, resources and support. In it, a group of students take two popular courses together along with a two-credit seminar led by an upperclassman. A Residential FIG takes it one step further because all of the students have the opportunity to live on the same floors of Lander Hall.
Since their seminar, office hours and tutoring are all in Lander, “Students can roll on down in their PJs to class — not something most people can say. It’s really convenient and unique,” said First Year Programs Director Grant Kollet. “The program is like a FIG on steroids. Not only are we trying to provide more programmatic opportunities for freshmen, we also provide many of them right there in their residence hall.”
“It was surprisingly pleasant to get to live and go to classes [in the same building] with my FIGmates,” freshman Laura McDowell said, “because it made me feel good to be able to step in the halls and talk with someone about a paper or a lecture. It made me feel like I was making friends faster and it helped the transition from home to here.”
Residential FIGs create a living-learning experience for students new to college in general and UW in particular.
Kollet says that First Year Programs is always looking for “ways to prime students to get the absolute most out of UW. I think one of the great things about Res FIGs is that it puts them on a fast-track to do just that.”
In the seminar and during Residential FIG social events (like a campus clue hunt), students become acquainted with the campus and all it has to offer: tutoring, advising, libraries, clubs, majors, how to navigate registration and so on.
Residential FIG leaders and the program are “available as a resource to students to answers questions not just about the FIG class, but about UW in general, Seattle, or really anything else they have questions about,” said Residential FIG leader Alex King.
“I would recommend a Res FIG to incoming freshman because it’s a convenient way to start building a network at the University,” said Marisa Hoge, another Residential FIG leader. “We provide them with an academic and friend support system at their finger tips the first year students are here.
“I have watched some of my students from last year already benefit from it,” she continued, “by acquiring jobs their sophomore year through connections they made in the Res FIG program. … The program shows students where the open doors are and it is up to them when they want to utilize them. The opportunities that we present to them sometimes can take years for students to discover on their own.”
The program also makes it easy for students to learn from each other by starting study groups on their floor.
“In my classes,” said Residential FIG Leader Benjamin Drum, “I have been promoting study groups for Chemistry 142 — telling students the benefits of collaborative learning. However, students were a little reticent to follow my advice. So I thought of the concept ‘Study Group Sponsoring.’
“Basically, if students formed a study group together and told me the time and location, I would come and personally meet them with snacks and refreshments: brownie bites, Jolly Ranchers, Nutrigrain bars, and mandarin oranges. The program supervisors loved the idea and helped me implement it. … Seeing my students’ eyes light up when I opened my backpack full of snacks for them was fantastic. … I was thrilled when they told me their study group was actually really helpful and that they were feeling a lot more confident about the final.”
Although autumn quarter is over and the seminar is complete, the Residential FIG experience does not just end there.
Debra Nelson, Housing and Food Services Residential Programs administrator, said that the Residential FIG leaders will continue to check in with their students, plan social events, serve as teaching assistants to an optional winter quarter freshman seminar and can assist with planning and as TAs for various seminars offered in the spring.
“I will assist running a seminar I helped create entitled ‘Exploring Paths to Health Careers,'” said Drum. “It’s a one-credit, freshman seminar [offered on a credit/no credit basis] about how to excel as a pre-health student drawing students from my FIGs and also from the pre-health community in Terry Hall.”
“We want students to stay involved and connected with the program and UW,” said Kollet. “We aim to take our entering students and get them plugged-in and keep them plugged-in. We’re after the full experience.”
Christopher Schwarz, a Residential FIG student, says that he would recommend the program to other students. He said that while “it’s not going to answer all of your questions about UW, it helps significantly with getting used to the campus and creating friendships.”
On a similar note, freshman McDowell says to incoming students, “Do it! Especially if you are not coming with a bunch of high school friends or are trying to make your own way this year like myself. It’s a bumpy ride, but the Res Fig program helped to make me feel like I belong.”