Business school must fully support first-year students by building community

When I was accepted into GW almost one year ago, I couldn’t wait to explore the opportunities the School of Business offered. From the courses to the career building opportunities, I was convinced that I found my place at GW. But this excitement soon dissipated. After my first semester, I contemplated transferring to a different university. The school didn’t live up to my expectations and I was disappointed by both the student and academic experiences within GWSB.

Originally, I had anticipated that the course designed for business school freshmen would help integrate me into GW, but I was mistaken. I became overwhelmed with the requirements that came from a one-credit class, the First-Year Developmental Program. FYDP is a mandatory year-long seminar for first-year business students that informs them of the resources at GW and within GWSB to help them transition to college. However, FYDP is a tedious course filled with mostly busy and unproductive work. Additionally, FYDP doesn’t provide first-year students with a sense of community and that should be its goal.

It has taken a year for me to discover and utilize the positive aspects of GWSB. It shouldn’t have taken that long, there are several measures the business school should take to help students feel comfortable in their first year of college. Although GWSB is strong in supporting students’ careers and helping upperclassmen land jobs, the school must minimize the workload in FYDP and focus instead on time management and fostering a sense of community. This can be done with improving FYDP by cutting the busy work and holding social events for first-year students.

FYDP is the first exposure that first-year students have to the business school, and it does have positive qualities. During the first semester of this yearlong course, students have the opportunity to create their own individual four-year plan, analyze a business case-study and learn valuable information about how to access the school’s career center. During the second semester, the course focuses on engaging students in the D.C. community, constructing cover letters and exploring concentrations. Overall, FYDP is designed with the intention of immersing first-year students in GWSB.

Although this course appears promising, FYDP unfortunately lacks the leniency that first-year students need. The course – which is only one credit – meets for only 50 minutes a week. Although it should not be difficult to do well in FYDP, tedious work is constantly assigned, such as heavily graded presentations, group projects and arduous essays that don’t contribute to future classes or help students adjust to college life.

During the second semester, two events were mandatory to attend. One event discussed civility in business, while the other was focused on concentrations for business students. Both of these events took place on a Thursday night, and I could not go because of another class I had at the same time. Because I could not attend, I was required to complete two additional writing assignments and attend another event. FYDP should offer more flexibility to students, especially since the course is only worth one credit. The goal of FYDP is to arm students with knowledge about GWSB and integrity in business discourse, yet the course requires a lot of time from first-year students for only one credit and doesn’t help students feel a part of the school. The course should allow students to attend more events to meet new people, but in order to require that, there should be more flexibility and less busy work.

GWSB also fails to connect students with one another and give them a sense of community on campus. GWSB should be doing more to bring first-year students in the business school together, and FYDP is missing an opportunity to facilitate this. While the school conducts a stellar amount of networking events, GWSB fails to give students a more relaxed event where they can meet fellow classmates and make genuine connections. FYPD has the means to pick up on this lack of community by starting with first-year students so they can go through their college career with a better sense of themselves and their classmates. One way the school can do this is by sponsoring a casual freshman dinner at the beginning of the academic year for first-year students to socialize with one another and meet professors in a more casual setting.

This would be feasible because other schools on campus already facilitate events like this. The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences plans multiple events for first-year students. For example, SEAS conducts an early move-in program so that students may bond prior to beginning classes. SEAS also has an optional academic residential community for first-year students in Thurston Hall. Even though GWSB is much larger than SEAS, if GWSB had such a program for interested incoming first-year students with limited spots, then the discomfort and isolation that students feel during their first semester would be relieved. The business organizations on campus are small and don’t help accommodate that need because they are more selective and more focused on their own personal missions rather than generally supporting first-year students.

When it comes to employing students, GWSB is effective in supporting upperclassmen, with about 80 percent of GWSB students in the Class of 2017 being offered jobs after graduation. GWSB also has a diversified array of concentrations that students can choose from to find their niche. Yet GWSB must do more to actively improve the first-year student experience through the FYDP curriculum and by properly guiding GWSB first-years into GW. Students in GWSB are fortunate to have a great program with many opportunities for advancement, but a focus on the freshmen will truly benefit each student’s future.

Jared Bach, a freshman, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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