Gatepost Interview: Ben Trapanick, Director of New Student and Family Programs

Ashley Wall / THE GATEPOST

What is your educational and professional background?

I did my undergraduate work at Binghamton University in New York – that was for my history degree. My graduate degree is higher education administration from North Carolina State University.

What led you to Framingham State? 

After graduation from undergraduate, I took an assistant basketball coaching job at a small college in North Carolina. To pick up some extra money, I started doing academic advising. That led me to be able to help out with academic counseling and academic support at North Carolina State for student athletes. I then had an academic counseling position at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. I was there for six years. I created their first-year seminar program. This opportunity then created itself, so I took it. At the time, it was First-Year Student Programs. It is now New Student and Family Programs.

What is your role as Director of New Student and Family Programs? 

My role is to oversee our office and create opportunities for first-year students to help them transition to college. We do this in a couple of different ways. We oversee orientation for first-year students and transfers. AJ Brent is the genius behind our orientation program these days. We also oversee the day-to-day operations of the Foundations program. I hire and train all of the peer mentors associated with that. We have three leadership teams that we oversee as well: the Foundations peer mentors, Black and Gold orientation leaders, and the Wet Feet Retreat leaders. We collaborate with a lot of different offices on campus as well.

What do you enjoy most about your position here at FSU? 

I like working with students. I like seeing the student leadership aspect and seeing students stepping up and becoming leaders. I like our Foundations program and coordinating that. More importantly, I like the people here. That is what keeps me here. I work with a good group of people who are very supportive of each other.

What do you believe is the most important aspect of working with first-year students?

You have to operate from the assumption that they are capable of doing the work. Some just need to learn the new expectations and learning how to tweak or revise some of their habits. It is very developmental. At the age of 18, starting a whole new life, whether you are commuting or a resident student – this is a new part of your life. I think being able to help foster those changes and adjustments are important. I enjoy the student leadership piece of it as well.

What on-campus programs are available for first-year students?

We’ve got Foundations, the Rams 101 program. Some are during summertime, such as Black and Gold Beginnings. We also launched an online orientation this summer, the Ram Ready Portal, a step-by-step and week-by-week program to help students, so all the information is not all thrown at them at orientation. CASA does several programs for first-year students, especially those who are on probation or in academic difficulty. There are programs for specific populations, such as the STEM Scholars program.

What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

Getting a first-year seminar course started from the ground up twice now. I did it at the Massachusetts School of Pharmacy, and I did it here with a lot of help. It involved a lot of collaboration. It involved going to governance. One thing that I am very proud of is that we are constantly reviewing the program to make sure it is relevant to our incoming students. For me personally, getting the Foundations program up off the ground here and maintaining it is a big accomplishment for me.

What are some of your hobbies?

I still play basketball. I play golf. I love spending time with my family.

What advice do you have for first-year students?

Keep your options open. Many students know that they will have to make changes but don’t know what they are and that can be frightening to them. I would definitely say pay attention to what is around you. Listen to what is going on. Decide on what you are willing to step out of your comfort zone a little bit to do. Take it one step at a time. Do it at your own pace, but try to step out of your comfort zone a little bit at a time. If it doesn’t work, go try something else.

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