By Steven Bonini
FSU’s “Rams Rising” event, also known as “Accepted Students Day,” will be taking place over the course of two upcoming weekends – April 2 and April 9.
These are the first in-person admissions acceptance days since 2019, with events the past two years taking place virtually.
The two-weekend event is used to give prospective students and their parents the opportunity to learn about the college experience at FSU, said Associate Dean of Admissions and Director of Undergraduate Admissions Shayna Eddy.
She said her office sponsors the event and highlighted some of the key aspects of the day students and their families will get to experience, including meeting with faculty, familiarizing themselves with clubs and organizations, touring the residence halls, and eating brunch.
Eddy said something new they’re trying this year is two concurrent sessions during the day – one for students and one for parents.
The student session will be led by Assistant Director and Orientation Coordinator of New Student and Family Programs Leah Mudd, and the parent session will be led by Director of New Student and Family Programs Ben Trapanick, she said.
It’s important for students’ parents to understand what their experience will be like at FSU, said Eddy, adding, “We want their families to come and to join and really be part of our campus community.”
She said other new features that will be offered for students and their families are the opportunity to visit the Danforth Art Museum and attend shows in the McAuliffe Center Planetarium – among other options.
No new safety protocols will be put in place for the event, said Eddy, adding, “We’re following the University guidelines.”
She said something they have taken into consideration is the fact that some students and families may not want to attend the brunch as it would require the removal of their masks, so a “to-go cart” option will be available.
Eddy said her office has accepted approximately 80% of students who have applied to attend FSU for the upcoming academic year – 3,739 students as of March 31.
According to Eddy, the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on admissions over the last couple of years, but said that’s been an issue across the Northeast.
“This is not something just unique to Framingham State,” she said. “My colleagues at other institutions are experiencing the same with a decline in applications.”
She said her office does expect to be accepting applications through the summertime – hoping to “garner another 200 applications between now and the end of August.”
Eddy said an important part of the Rams Rising event is the academic sessions when students get to meet with faculty members and learn about the different majors the University offers.
During the academic sessions, she said, “Students are really getting the ins and outs of the programs.
“When they walk away from that session after an hour, they know what it’s like to be an English major. They know what it’s like to be a political science major,” she added.
Overall, Eddy said she hopes prospective students get the opportunity to hear from the community about how exciting FSU is and what the college has to offer.
She said it’s important incoming students are able to compare FSU to other colleges and walk away thinking, “Wow, this is great. They’re welcoming! They’re friendly! I know I’m going to get a great education!”
Rachel Lucking, assistant dean for Campus Engagement, said she plays an important role in planning Rams Rising as a member of the planning committee and specifically plays a central role in the resource fair, which is called State Street 101.
She said she hopes incoming students who attend the resource fair experience a sense of the FSU community, adding, “That’s one of our biggest selling points.
“I think it’s certainly a critical piece of making a decision to go somewhere – that there are good people there who can help you,” she said. “Meeting the people in the community is a top priority.”
Lucking said another focus she’s had in planning the fair is creating a social media presence for clubs and organizations – ensuring prospective students leave the event knowing the Instagram handles of the organizations so they can see “first-hand” what Framingham State has to offer.
Trapanick said his office has a large presence at the event as well, including a spot at the resource fair.
He said the fair will act as a “centralized location” for students and their families to not only speak to members of clubs and organizations, but also with Residence Life, CASA, and other offices.
Regarding his role with the separate parent and student sessions, he said his goal is to help parents understand what their role is in the acceptance process as well as what they can expect their students to experience at FSU.
He said there will be a final session during the day at which he and Mudd will meet with students who have submitted their deposits to discuss next steps.
McKenzie Ward, president of SGA, said student-run clubs and organizations were highly encouraged to host a table at the day’s events so prospective students can get a good grasp of what’s being offered.
She said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, engagement has been low both at colleges and high schools, so it’s important to keep students involved.
SGA will be having an information table, said Ward, adding if incoming students “are interested in joining student government, they can reach out to me to find out more of what being part of student government entails and the responsibilities that go along with that.
“I know other student organizations are doing the same,” she said.
Ward said she hopes incoming students see that even though FSU is a small school, there’s still a strong community presence, adding, it’s important for them to feel there’s more to do than simply go to class, eat in the dining hall, and then return to their dorms.
Given the small class sizes FSU offers, Ward said the faculty is one of the University’s greatest assets.
“Students really should look forward to the faculty that we have here,” she said. “We have some of the most dedicated faculty members [who] really make sure that students feel heard and listened to, but also make sure that our education is top-tier.”
She said at other colleges, students may just be “a number” to their professors because of the large class sizes, but at FSU, “you can really create those one-on-one connections with professors that can lead you to a job or to an internship or anything after you graduate.”
Lisa Eck, chair of the English department, said at the academic sessions, faculty from each department will pitch what makes their discipline unique and interesting to incoming students.
“It’s a glimpse of the curriculum, but you’re not going through it like you would during advising or registration,” she said. “It’s much more about what makes us passionate about our discipline.”
She said there is also a meet-and-greet with students from each of the majors, so prospective students can hear from those who have experienced first-hand what a particular major is like.
As important as it is to hear from the faculty who teach the courses, she said there’s more “authenticity” when students respond to questions from incoming freshmen.
Eck said something she believes will make a difference is having the event in person because students will now have the opportunity to physically participate in the academic sessions as well as see what the campus is all about.
She highlighted the importance of meeting with families, making eye contact, and sharing a laugh with individuals.
None of that happened over Zoom, said Eck, adding some families wouldn’t even turn their cameras on.
Over the course of the day, Eck said she hopes to begin developing bonds with accepted students, adding, “I want to start a relationship that will continue in the fall. And sure enough, when students come back in September, I remember their names, I can quote them, I remember what they were interested in.”
Ultimately, Eck said she hopes students see that FSU is a “rigorous, amazing liberal arts college with small classes” of “incredible value.
“It’s a small place where you’re not a number,” she said. “You’ll be known. You’ll find your voice here.”
Eck said she believes people often think there’s a measurable difference between a private institution and a public institution when it comes to education, adding, there really is none.
“I think the only difference is that we are focused on teaching first and research second,” she said. “If anything, it’s an even better value because we all identify as teachers first and then teacher-scholars second.”
David Smailes, interim chair of the Political Science Department, said in his experience, participating in the Rams Rising event via Zoom had its advantages, but being back in person will give incoming students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the community.
“I think traveling to campus is an important part of what goes on with Rams Rising,” he said, adding when prospective students see the community, they get a good sense of what campus life is like.
“Just the physical surroundings are important for making people feel at home,” he added. “I think that comes through at events like this.”
Smailes said he hopes to give students a good feeling about the Political Science Department after meeting with them, adding they should be able to understand the possibilities of a career in political science as well as other opportunities studying political science can achieve.
“This is more than just politics,” he said.
“This is all about administration. It’s about communication. … It’s about a half a dozen things that you would never even think of as being related to political science that people do with political science degrees,” Smailes added.
“I hope that comes through,” he said.
Above all, Smailes said he enjoys participating in the event.
“I always have fun at these events,” he said. “I like meeting people. I like being able to answer questions that people have, and I especially like showing off what we’re all about. I think that’s a really nice part of the day.”
Smailes said he always finds it “rewarding” to go in and talk about something he’s “proud of.”
[Editor’s Note: McKenzie Ward is Opinions Editor for The Gatepost.]