New cultural training for frocos to begin this week

Major League Baseball squads are not the only teams in spring training right now: Beginning this week, freshman-counselor teams for the 2008-’09 school year will warm up with a new training regimen focused on expanding their knowledge of Yale’s cultural resources.

In order to relax the pace of training — which is usually held during a harried week in August before freshmen arrive on campus — and to highlight cultural literacy, juniors selected to be counselors will begin meeting Wednesday to discuss Yale’s cultural community and resources as the first in a series of eight one-hour modules they will attend over the course of the next few weeks.

Current roommates Jeff Brown ’09 and Daniel Jimenez ’09 will serve as Jonathan Edwards College freshman counselors next year.
Ge Yang
Current roommates Jeff Brown ’09 and Daniel Jimenez ’09 will serve as Jonathan Edwards College freshman counselors next year.

The shift reflects the University’s plan to merge the functions of the freshman- and ethnic-counseling programs over the next two years.

“We’re doing everything we’ve done before, but more of it,” Dean of Freshman Affairs George Levesque said. “We want [freshman counselors] to know the resources of the University and to know the problems students from a variety of backgrounds can encounter.”

To that end, the modules will introduce the upcoming freshman-counselor class to all four cultural houses, the Office of International Students and Scholars, the University Chaplain’s Office and Yale’s Queer Resource Center. In addition to an introductory session led by Levesque and Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, each cultural-house dean and the directors of the resource offices will direct a workshop.

Special advisor to the deans for LGBTQ issues Maria Trumpler said she plans to feature a panel of three students who will discuss their Yale experiences.

“I think having a whole hour to discuss the issues that first-year students can face regarding gender identity and sexual orientation, along with the many resources that Yale offers to help students, will be a vast improvement over the 10 minutes I had this past [August],” Trumpler wrote in an e-mail.

University Chaplain Sharon Kugler, in an e-mail to the News, called the modules a “golden opportunity” to meet the new counselors and discuss issues of faith, religious identity and “finding a spiritual home or community at Yale.”

In years past, before eager freshmen flooded campus, counselors would pack into lecture halls for 12-hour days and take notes on subjects ranging from the University’s mental-health resources and the Chemistry Department’s placement exam in addition to the University’s network of cultural resources.

It was hectic but — for some of this year’s freshman counselors, at least — it seemed to do the trick. Gregory Lipstein ’08, a freshman counselor in Trumbull College, praised the organization and delivery aspects of the August instruction, while Timothy Dwight Colllege counselor Jason Karl ’08 credited the program for reintroducing him to resources that “I had taken for granted over the past three years.”

And even as the old system undergoes change, freshmen interviewed professed faith in their counselors. While some freshmen interviewed, like Clara Men ’11, said they rarely talk with their freshman counselors — or anyone — regarding cultural issues, those who did spoke positively of such conversations.

“My froco was definitely well-versed [in campus cultural resources],” Shasky Clarke ’11 said. “He helped out in terms of telling me what resources to take advantage of.”

Still, Lipstein said he would have appreciated greater emphasis on the University’s cultural resources.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have these earlier training sessions for the cultural houses,” he said. “That was something we didn’t quite get as much training in — we went and visited the houses, but I didn’t really feel all that knowledgeable about what goes on there.”

Incoming Davenport College counselor Emily Finn ’09 said she hopes the revamped training leaves her with a greater understanding of the University’s cultural resources.

“It does make sense that [the University] wants to get started at the end of the year,” she said. “It’ll help to get off the ground a little bit in the spring, so it’s not all dumped into that one week in August.”

That said, the counselors will still be expected back in New Haven early for training — albeit slightly less of it. Levesque explained that the usual fall training will still encompass numerous academic, social and health-related issues.

But counselors can expect one last curve-ball from the fall session, Gentry said: Counselors will be placed on the spot during training through a series of scenarios Gentry half-jokingly called “the situation room.” Counselors in training will enter a room in which a challenging situation is taking place — whether it be freshmen consuming alcohol, a freshman upset with academic work or some other problem — and be expected to address the problem effectively.

“[Counselors] are just sitting there all day long and receiving a ton of information,” Gentry explained of the new scenarios. “We want them to practice, to act as they would like actual frocos.”

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