Williamson’s 2018-19 school year is now underway and the Class of 2W1 is beginning their 1,000-day Williamson journey ahead of past classes because they are familiar with the school’s core values, know each other well, have an awareness of the cultural differences among their classmates, and have a little more self-confidence.
This all came about during a new event, the 4-day First Year Experience (FYE), the first step in a comprehensive 3-year leadership program with the goal of making graduates Williamson men who have leadership skills, according to Dr. Todd Zachary, senior vice president and chief of staff.
FYE, held the week before the 5-day freshman orientation, included seminars on Williamson’s core values, the value of a Williamson scholarship, diversity and cultural awareness, and leadership. Complementing the seminars were a myriad of hands-on experiential activities designed to enhance self-confidence, teamwork, communication, and leadership skills. Through FYE, students were able to learn about themselves and their classmates while getting to know some of the staff and faculty, and even mentors drawn from the senior class.
Zachary said, “FYE made a significant impact in charting a new chapter forward for Williamson. Through the various activities, the transition to college becomes far less intimidating to freshmen enabling them to hit the ground running at a far quicker pace. Many of the senior mentors involved with FYE commented on the program’s success in creating a tight bond among the freshmen class as they strive towards becoming Williamson men.”
FYE began with opening remarks from President Michael Rounds, who said “You have been given the gift of the opportunity to become Williamson men after three years. We have high standards and want you to do what you have to do to make it successfully. You are 100 strangers today and at the end of your journey you will have 100 brothers.”
Next, the students broke into small discussion groups designed to break down communication barriers while introducing the college’s core values and Isaiah Williamson’s legacy. Then, students began a two-part seminar on culture awareness and diversity presented by Bishop Dr. Alvin Motley, of the Way Thru Christ Community Fellowship.
The second day presented the students with a personal challenge as they faced Go, Ape!, an aerial adventure course at Lums Pond State Park in Delaware.
The third day saw a return of Dr. Motley’s staff in leading an advanced seminar on diversity and equality. This was followed by James Ask of the Travis Manion Foundation talking on the importance of character. Following the presentation, the students learned about the importance of Williamson’s core value of service, when they traveled to Wharton Park, Philadelphia, to clean the park — pulling weeds, raking, sweeping, and picking up trash. They worked in intense heat alongside members of the Travis Manion group and some staff.
On the fourth day, students participated in a Leadership Reaction Course at Joint Base McGuire-Dix, NJ. Students were divided into ten teams, working through a series of tough physical and mental challenges. Throughout the ten challenges, each student had the opportunity to experience being both a leader and a follower.
Zachary said, “The impact of the FYE experience is already being felt across the campus. Having faced the challenges of FYE together, the bond between class peers has taken a strong and accelerated leap forward, helping to strengthen the bridge of students moving from high school to college. Across campus faculty, staff and upperclassmen are already recognizing the difference that FYE has instilled.”
Williamson’s new leadership program spans across all three years of a student’s experience at Williamson. FYE is the first critical step of a student’s 1000-day journey towards becoming a leader of character, a Williamson man.