A pilot of various programmes that will be launched in September will see Trinity try and re-focus how it supports new students through their first few months of college.
A year after the College hired its first member of staff with a sole focus on supporting students in their transition to Trinity, some changes will be introduced for those students who’ll enter college in September.
While Student 2 Student (S2S) volunteers will still wear their red hoodies and run small-groups sessions during Freshers’ Week, a new pilot run for students in the Faculty of Engineering, Maths and Science will introduce a second, larger session. Groups of around 40 first-year students will get together to discuss their concerns and have their questions answered.
Eimear Rouine, the College’s Transition to Trinity Officer, told The University Times: “We’re running a session that the mentors will actually facilitate and it allows the students to set the agenda themselves for what they want to talk about.”
Run like a question-and-answers session, the primary role of the session is to give students the chance to talk to their S2S mentors again during the first week and to once again give them a chance to have their questions answered. “Your question on day one is very different to your question on day four and it’s very different to your question on week one. At the very start you have no clue what you should be asking”, Rouine said.
“You ask the broad questions: What are you excited about? What are you worried about? And the students will feedback their answers and the mentors can then talk about from their own experience”, she added.
Based on a pilot she first ran in January with international students, Rouine is confident the programme will be a success. “It’s a safe environment to allow people to see that whatever it is they’re worried about, or whatever it is they’re concerned about, that everyone else in the room feels the same way”, she said.
While her role has no budget to speak of, Rouine is making small changes to a system she believes “dumps” unnecessary amounts of information on students in the first week. While the familiar orientation lecture will still go ahead as usual for first-year students, Rouine wants to make sure that students are given the practical information they need.
She recounts one example of an S2S volunteer who, at one of the society’s training days, discussed how when she was in first year, unable to find a bathroom for the first few days, she was reduced to visiting a bar across the street.
Orientation, Rouine argues, is currently lost on many students because of the amount of information they receive in their first week. Instead, she wants to use current services and S2S mentors to give students the key information they need throughout the first term. Working with Trinity’s various student services, such as the Student Counselling Service and Trinity Sport, Rouine hopes that by December students will be well settled into college life.
“I’m not re-inventing anything. Everything that’s in it already exists. There’s already supports, there’s already resources for it, it’s just packaging really. And packaging in a way that we’re not just focusing on a particular area, we’re focusing on what all of them can do.”
The pilot programme will run alongside new themed weeks that’ll see Rouine feed S2S volunteers information across the first term, so that first-year students, rather than receiving information just once at the start of term, are instead repeatedly told about the various supports and services in a themed bundle throughout their first few months in Trinity.
“We can drip-feed information when it’s relevant and we can repeat it again and again when we need to”, she said.
If the pilot goes well, it’ll be rolled out to all students across the college next year. After that, Rouine hopes to focus on some of the other major transitions facing students, such as the move into postgraduate degrees.