Writing and first-year students

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Students' Perspectives

“Learning Communities are the single most helpful experience at ESF.  I’m going to miss it when I live off campus next year.  They allow students to get help from their peers and become almost a family.”

“It made the transition to college a lot easier, since all of us were together and had ESF in common.  Without it, I doubt I would feel as comfortable in college as I do now.”

“I think it was a great idea that everyone was taking the same core courses.  That way, we could talk about assignments, quizzes, tests, and lectures with just about anyone around us.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed my learning community experience. Living in an environment where everyone is taking similar classes and is going through the same lifestyle changes is very reassuring. This created a great living, learning and studying atmosphere. Everyone bonds together to help out academically, socially and physically. This is a GREAT program.”

Writing and first-year students

In the year 2000, ESF began its first living/learning community. First year students were grouped together in a residence hall and took common courses which were linked to each other and to student life activities. This highly successful program increased both student satisfaction and retention.

This living/learning community, which integrates academic, residential, and social aspects of college life, has grown to include all first year students. The ESF First Year Experience helps students make the transition from high school to college.

First-year students take EWP 190 Writing and the Environment, a writing course which is integrated with General Biology and General Chemistry. The writing instructors, the biology and chemistry professors, the residence director, and the student life staff work together to build a positive atmosphere for learning. The first-year students are given mentors through the Student-to-Student mentoring program, which creates a network of peer support.

Over the summer, the students are asked to read a common book, and when they arrive on campus, they participate in a campus-wide book discussion that includes faculty and staff. The first-year students attend an all-day retreat in September, which includes a ropes course and small-group meetings with faculty members. Students complete community service projects and attend workshops on such topics as time management. In EWP 190, the students are given a chance to reflect on these experiences and use writing to make the connections between their academic courses and their experiences in the community.

For More Information

Contact Janine DeBaise at



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