Focus on First-Year


By Aria Walfrand

The transition from high school to college can be challenging, to say the least. Leaving home (for the very first time, for some people), living with a stranger in a building full of strangers, and having much more freedom than ever before are just a few of the challenges that first-years to colleges all over the world must face.

A new program at Union called “Focus on First-Years” aims to help first-years with their transition to life here by focusing their creativity into photographing their first term. The brainchild of Dean of First Year Students Kate Schurick and Director of Student Activities Matt Milless, this program puts cameras into the hands of first-year students and has them photographing different aspects of their lives.

While similar programs like this exist at Iowa State University, Marquette University, James Madison University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Minnesota, Dean Schurick wanted to bring this program to Schenectady and make it wholly Union’s. During the summer, Dean Schurick sent out an e-mail to all the incoming first years, advertising the program.

Although similar programs recommend that class sizes stay around ten people, the response of interested students was so large (26 students filled out the application for the program)—and both Schurick and Milless did not want to cut willing students out—that they accepted everyone and just split the group into two classes.

The groups meet every other Wednesday (one group meets even weeks, one group meets odd weeks) during common hour. Upon entering the room, a slide show of the students’ work from the previous week is playing. Students are given a theme every week (i.e., the first week’s theme was “my first days”) and have to take pictures every week that represent the theme.


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