First-Years Make Cocurricular Connections in Cleveland

September 11, 2018

Amanda Nagy

Cleveland script sign on brick platform.
Photo credit: The Cleveland script sign at North Coast Harbor.

Connect Cleveland Orientation brings the Oberlin Class of 2022 to the city for a day of service work and exploration.

On August 29, the entire incoming college and conservatory class spent the day in Cleveland as part of a brand new orientation program that aims to raise students’ awareness of professional and service-oriented opportunities in the city.

Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar introduced the “Connect Cleveland” orientation day with the intent of connecting new students to the city and strengthening ties between Oberlin and the greater Northeast Ohio region.

The program brought together approximately 850 students, divided into cohorts and led by their Peer Advising Leaders (PAL) and ConPAL leaders, as well as faculty and Oberlin staff members. Throughout the day, they participated in a variety of service projects with more than a dozen organizations, toured cultural institutions, and engaged in workshops related to their First-Year Seminar Program (FYSP) coursework.

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Lola Thompson coordinated a two-hour class at Praxis Fiber Workshop for her first-year seminar, Form and Formula: the Interplay Between Mathematics and the Arts. Instructors taught the group how to use a wet felting technique to create three-dimensional ‘‘vessels’’ out of dyed sheep’s wool. Thompson says the process was complex and challenging, but they each completed a felted vessel to take home.

“Many of us were not aware of how much time and effort it takes to repeatedly press the layers of wool,” Thompson says. “For a while, our vessels just looked like mounds of wet, soapy wool, but they seemed to magically come together at the end. We will be making lots of mathematically inspired artwork over the course of the semester, so I was very glad that my students had the opportunity to get their hands wet, literally, during orientation.’’

Peer advising leader Khalid McCalla and his cohort visited Vel’s Purple Oasis, an urban farm, where they built a flower bed, planted flowers, and weeded the garden. Vel Scott, a long-time entrepreneur and community leader, gave a presentation about her background in nutrition and the history of black women as gardeners. McCalla says he heard nothing but positive feedback from his peers.

“They found it to be really enriching in addition to it being a ton of fun and a great bonding experience,” says McCalla, a second-year from Atlanta. “I think the program was successful due to the effort that was made to link the sites with first-year seminars. This allowed first-years to connect with their experience in Cleveland on a more personal level.”

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