Welcome From Jerry Price, Dean of Students!
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: I feel I can say with complete confidence that none of you would have preferred to start your Chapman career this way. You would prefer to be moving into residence halls together, going to big events where you would meet dozens and dozens of fellow new students, and then walking the campus to scope out your future classrooms. Unfortunately, that is not how this academic year is going to start.
That said, I urge you to remember this: while we did not choose these circumstances in which we find ourselves, we absolutely can choose how we respond to them. You still can learn more about your major and classes and professors; you still can and will meet new friends. For now, however, you will do so differently. Sure, this “differently” likely will require more effort and initiative on your part, but you have the power to choose to make that effort.
Don’t let the pandemic allow you to lower your expectations of your college experience or yourself. The truth is, the extent to which your first semester at Chapman exceeds or falls short of your expectations depends greatly on the quality of your own attitude and effort.
As you give thought to just what your expectations might be, I would like to offer a few suggestions. There will be a million new things to think about over the next few months, but my experience has been that there are three fundamental factors that contribute to new student success:
1) Clarify your desired academic/career path. This does not mean you need to have your major solidified right away; in fact, about 25% of Chapman freshmen either don’t have a major or say they are likely to change it.
The key is to be actively exploring your academic and career objectives. Does your major still feel right after the first one or two semesters? If so, great; if not, you need to be proactive in exploring alternative academic paths.
2) Make satisfactory academic progress. Like all other new Chapman students, you probably are accustomed to high academic success and are expecting the same of yourself here. That’s how it should be. However, the academic demands of Chapman classes likely will be very different from what you experienced in high school or even community college. Be prepared to stay disciplined and work hard.
3) Develop interpersonal connections with your peers. At Chapman, social connections cannot really be separated from academic ones. I say this because many of the peer relationships you develop will be with people with similar academic and career interests; it essentially is the beginning of your networking process.
Just as important, studies show that students who develop strong interpersonal connections with their peers perform better academically and are more likely to persist to graduation. Again, as we’ve already addressed, accomplishing this will look different this fall; the everyday, happenstance way that new students normally meet each other on campus is not going to be the norm. That makes it even more important that you commit yourself to making connections with others.
Seek out your orientation leader or resident advisor. Check out campus clubs and organizations – many of them will be active virtually. Most importantly, take the initiative to reach out to students in your classes, orientation group or residence hall. Trust me: everyone is hoping for this connection – why can’t you be the one who makes it happen?
Finally, along the way, the key is to be patient and stay positive – especially this year. Success in each of the three fundamentals above happens on a different timeline for each student. Some students feel great right away about their major but are having trouble making close friends; other students make friends right away, but struggle early in their adjustment to Chapman academics. It is important to just stay confident and keep plugging away, and things will come together for you.
We Are Chapman
Without question, one of the primary goals of We Are Chapman is to create a diverse and inclusive campus that is welcoming for all members of our community. However, We Are Chapman is about more than building a welcoming campus.
Since Chapman highly values student independence and autonomy, when we require something, it is because we are convinced it is essential to your education. And make no mistake – We Are Chapman is about enhancing the quality of your education. As stated in Chapman’s statement on diversity and inclusion, “We value diversity and inclusion in the learning environment and believe it is vital to the fulfillment of the university mission. It is our conviction that an inclusive learning environment facilitates complex, critical and creative thinking and that differences in identities, values, beliefs and perspectives are fundamental to a comprehensive education.”
It is my hope that by engaging in We Are Chapman you will appreciate how the differences in people, experiences, and ideas you encounter contribute to your own learning and growth.