When members of the Class of 2027 arrive at Bates in August, they will be brought into the Bates fold by one of the nation’s leading first-year programs. 

Revamped in 2020, the Bates First-Year Experience was recently honored by NASPA, a leading national association for student affairs professionals, for successfully delivering a “holistic and cohesive experience for new students throughout their entire first year.”

Move-In Day scenes on Aug. 31, 2022, as members of the Class of 2026 arrive on campus with their families.OWLS Linnea Selendy ’23 and Eva Wu ’25 greet arriving students and their families as they pull up in their vehicles on the Alumni Walk side of Commons.
Linnea Selendy ’23 (left) of New York City and Eva Wu ’25 of Shenzhen, China, greet arriving members of the Class of 2026 and their families on Aug. 31, 2022, outside Commons. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)  

The Collaboration Award, presented by the Orientation, Transition, and Retention Knowledge Community of NASPA, notes that the Bates FYE is now a “premier model that is fueled by a deep collaboration between academic affairs and student affairs.”

The award is a “tremendous honor,” says Professor of Politics Stephen Engel, who, as an associate dean of the faculty focusing on student academic support and experience, co-led the  team that redesigned the Bates FYE program for its debut in 2020.

The revised program, led by Engel, Associate Dean and Director of Operations Blake Reilly, and fellow Student Affairs professionals, represents a shift in how Bates introduces students to the community. 

“What matters most to all of us is that our students have a positive and enriching first year at Bates.”

Jimmy Riley

Rather than the traditional fire-hose of information delivered over the course of just a few days before classes, the new program has a more measured cadence that continues throughout the year. As a result, students are better able to process and retain all the new names, faces, and information, while also getting the big picture about Bates community values, from equity and inclusion to health and well-being.

The Bates FYE program reflects the “values that animate our community as much as it has also been a means for our students to get to know the people, programs, and policies that sustain our community,” said Engel.

Jimmy Riley,
Jimmy Riley, director of residence life and community standards and member of the Bates First-Year Experience team.

And it works, Engel added, because of buy-in from the entire Bates enterprise. “The work to support the transition to Bates would be utterly impossible without the engagement of our entire community,” he said.

“No single office manages the program,” said Jimmy Riley, director of residence life and community standards, who traveled with Bates colleagues in April to accept the award during the 2023 NASPA annual conference in Boston.

“It lives as an ongoing strategic partnership among several community stakeholders, including folks from academic affairs and student affairs. What matters most to all of us is that our students have a positive and enriching first year at Bates.”