Becoming the Big Blue
A long-standing tradition at Millikin University, First Week is a signature orientation program held each academic year before classes begin. First-year students are invited to campus for First Week to get acclimated to all the services provided and all the different things that can be expected on campus.
"One thing that we try to bring to First Week is positivity because we have a lot of students who are new to Millikin," said Tyler Haub, a senior English-secondary teaching major from West Branch, Iowa. "We try to build as much of a community between the first-year students as we can."
During First Week, students learn about student organizations, studying abroad, internships, student media, intramurals and recreation, community service, and many more programs and services that support academic goals and personal development.
One of the many activities during First Week is the University Seminar course. The course focuses on two key skills: critical and ethical reasoning, and reflection.
The University Seminar course blends theory and practice by engaging students in service learning and by addressing specific student success topics. The course provides an opportunity for first-year students to become adjusted to the Millikin environment, and make important connections with faculty members and First-Year Experience Mentors.
"First Week is important because it's your first community," said Joshua Miller, a senior theatre major from Flossmoor, Ill. "It's like your first family."
Another highlight of First Week is Millikin's annual Day of Action. Day of Action is Millikin's opportunity to give back to the local community by sending students into the neighborhoods for service opportunities.
"We really enjoy being a part of the Decatur community and being community partners is very important to us," said Molly Berry, director of Inclusion & Student Engagement at Millikin. "We want to make sure that our first-year students go out into the community and volunteer, get exposure, and learn about what this new place is going to be like for them."
Each year, several returning students at Millikin become First-Year Experience Mentors who are instrumental in helping first-year students make personal adjustments to campus and academic life during the summer and throughout the entire academic year.
McKinley Paratore, a senior digital media marketing major from Oswego, Ill., is one of several First-Year Experience Mentors at Millikin.
"The thing about First Week is that we know that it works because we continue to see students wanting to be First-Year Experience Mentors," said Paratore. "It's because they saw the need for it when they were freshmen. They want to give back and provide Millikin with amazing people that educate first-year students and give them a place to call home."